It’s Easier to Admire than Aspire

Biographies of successful people sell very well. People eat that stuff up. Add in a difficult childhood, poverty, or some other against the odds situation, and even more people will read the book. Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs sold 379,000 copies in its first week according to Nielson Bookscan and even though it was released in October, the tenth month of the year, it was Amazon’s 2011 best selling book.

What’s the purpose of reading the book however? I don’t think it’s only curiosity regarding Steve Jobs the man. I think there’s a bit of, or a lot of, “if he can do it maybe I can as well” thinking. Everyone loves the rags to riches story but how many are willing to work at it? Did Steve Jobs or any of the other millionaires and billionaires just get lucky?

Luck does play some part, but focus, desire, and drive have much larger roles in success. Clear goals give you the desire to focus and the drive to persevere. In my post The Unbearable Lightness of Goals I make clear that goals are changeable, that they can evolve over time. For people who ask What Next, goals are a starting point that will expand as they complete each task.

After reading a book such as the biography of Steve Jobs what do you do with the information, with the motivation you may have? For most people the answer is absolutely nothing. It is easier to admire someone like Jobs than it is to aspire to be as successful as him. There is no shortage of admiration for successful people but there is a real dearth of aspiration.

To be a billionaire isn’t really all that realistic and isn’t a goal unto itself. If you have a real goal, however, the only judge of whether you accomplish it is you. As time passes, as accomplishments are met, the measure of success changes. If the only people I compare myself to are wildly more successful than me, then I always feel like a failure. Likewise if I only compare myself to those less successful than me then I’m probably not working up to my potential, not pushing myself as hard as I could.

Quit admiring people and start to aspire to the best you can.


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