“Evabudy want ta be uh bodybuilda, but don’t nobody wanna lift no heavy ass weight.”
That’s how this montage of Ronnie Coleman begins.
Here’s another passage to consider. Harry Potter has just met Dobby the house elf. Harry offers to help him escape his miserable life:
‘Please,’ Harry whispered frantically, ‘please be quiet. If the Dursleys hear anything, if they know you’re here …’
Everybody aspires to greatness. We all want to be the one taking and nailing the final shot. We all want to write the book that changes the world, to start the company that impacts millions, to be the one who saves the life or takes down the corrupt institution.
Not so many aspire to be good. Few people wake up and think, “today I am going to banish jealousy from my thoughts” or “today I will practise gratitude for everything I have.”
It’s easy to see why. Look at the rewards for greatness: universal acclaim, wealth, praise, reputation, power. The rewards for goodness: a clean conscience, fulfilment, serenity, happiness.
By recognising the difference between the two we realise that they run on very different paths. But which path should we focus on? Should we devote our energy to doing great things? Or to becoming a good person?
Because the good is the foundation for the great. Because the good precedes the great.
To be great and change the world requires the same qualities we develop when we try to be a better person: honesty, self-control, generosity, persistence, kindness, endurance and humility.
Every single person who has done something great exhibited these qualities, at least in the moment that we remember them for.
We can and should practise them in our everyday lives.
If we do, and the time comes and we get the chance to change the flow of events, to make our mark, then we will be well drilled at meeting the opportunity with the necessary virtue.