A few years ago I watched an interview with the late Steve Jobs. It was a kind of retrospective on his life, his career, and all that he’d accomplished. (The interview was conducted before he returned to Apple in the late 1990s.)
There were a lot of inspiring comments in the interview, but the one that struck me the most was his articulation of a truth he discovered in the wake of co-founding Apple:
When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and you’re life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family, have fun, save a little money.
That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.
Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.
I remembered feeling convicted by those words. How many times have I wished for someone else to do something that would improve my life or circumstances?
I was struck by similar thoughts a month ago during a post-Super Bowl interview with Russell Wilson, the quarterback for the champion Seattle Seahawks. In the interview, Wilson expressed that growing up he had many conversations about great football players with his father, and inevitably his father would ask him “why not you? Why shouldn’t it be you?” He later recounted the story in an interview:
I just remember driving in the car with him so many times and him saying, ‘Rus, why not you? Why can’t you be the Super Bowl winning quarterback and do great things with that? You have all the ability, so why not you?’
It’s easy to do what’s in front of you leave the hard stuff the others. It’s also easy to assume that others have an “inside track” on the truth, or that there is someone else better equipped to handle a problem. There is no guaranteed result on the other side of our effort, and sometimes it’s easier to hover close to the middle. We may want something, but it’s difficult to justify the emotional expense of chasing it.
However, in those times, perhaps it would be wise to adopt the mindset of Steve Jobs and Russell Wilson and to recognize that all of the things we see around us are the result of other people spending themselves, taking emotional risk, and squelching fear of uncertainty because they believe they can create something of value that would outlive them.
So in your life, I ask, why not you?