I am going to stir up some controversy here.
Do you believe that all the success you enjoy has been due to your effort?
And, correspondingly, all the goals you have not met is because you did not work hard enough or smart enough? Or perhaps because you did not have the ‘right’ background, or connections, or skin color, or intelligence?
There is a huge industry out there where learned pundits tell you the ‘secrets’ of some great achiever. They offer, for a sometimes substantial fee, to tell you these secrets and coach you on how to implement them.
So you, too, can be as rich as Jeff Bezos and build a company that not only disrupts many industries but the way people live their lives. All you must do is figure out what to do and then do it.
But what if this is false?
What if Jeff Bezos was able to achieve his monumental wealth and success because that was his destiny? Because this is what was ‘written’ for him?
And what if you will never achieve anything close to that because this was not ‘written’ for you?
Western society roundly rejects this. Our culture insists that anyone can do anything. Everyone believed that it was impossible to run a mile in four minutes. Then Roger Bannister did it and soon dozens of others as well.
There is a sequence in the movie Lawrence of Arabia where Lawrence, played by Peter O’Toole, discovers that one of his men is missing. He had dropped off from his camel during the night and was lost in the desert. When he tried to persuade his colleagues to turn back and search for him, they demur. He was lost in the desert and would soon be dead they assert. There was nothing that could be done. It was ‘written.’
Frustrated, Lawrence turns back alone. He returns the next day with the missing man. He pointedly tells Sherif Ali ibn el Kharish – played by Omar Sharif – “Nothing is written.’
Here is a two minute clip from the movie that shows this incident:
Now I will go deeper and make it more confusing.
What if Lawrence was wrong?
What if it is not true that ‘Nothing is written?’ What if ‘Everything is written?’
What if it was ‘written’ that Lawrence would go back and find that man and bring him back and assert that ‘Nothing is written?’
What if all the success you enjoy is not because of the effort you put in but because it was ‘written’ for you. Even the effort you put in was ‘written.’
When you fail, it is not because of errors of omission or commission but because it was not ‘written’ for you.
Is your head spinning yet?
‘Nothing is written’ is a mental model.
‘Everything is written’ is also a mental model.
Both models can serve you well. You just have to know how to use them. And you must use both of them in tandem.
Understand that, even if ‘everything is written’, you don’t know what is written.
And the only way you will know is if you try your darndest and don’t achieve your goals. Politicians like Robert Dole and John McCain desperately wanted to be president and tried and failed. Gerald Ford had no great desire to be president and didn’t try but he became president anyway.
So begin by setting your goals and trying your level best to achieve them. If you don’t succeed, don’t label it a ‘failure’. Simply label it ‘This happened’ and try again. And again.
There will be tremendous learning and growth as you make this heroic effort. That learning and growth is your reward.
If, after all this, you fall short of what you wanted to achieve, know that whatever you accomplished is what was ‘written’ for you.
Rejoice in it and celebrate it.
Remember Milton. “They also serve who only stand and wait.”
This is a deep topic and I have only scratched the surface. I will come back to this by and by.