The Final Note
Today’s edition of At Water’s Edge is built around the guitar, and also celebrates creative collaboration. Too often in the music world, the focus is on the soloist, the rockstar in front of the band, the diva, the hot dog shredder, the standout.
This applies to many other things about modern life, too: high scores in tests or games, competition in sports or at work, individual performance, standing out in a crowd, unique looks or ideas, rugged individualism. Gamesmanship.
But that model doesn’t serve us as well as we think. Life is far less of a competition than some would have us believe.
This is not to say we should not honor individual talent and genius — how boring would life be if we were all merely mediocre!
But the truth is that we all need each other, even the most talented among us. Everyone comes from somewhere; and while there is such a thing as genius, it takes other people to teach us what we know, and the experience of being and working with other people to make us who we are. Our unique experiences are what give us our individual identities, and at the same time, we cannot stand alone.
Constant competition, especially when it’s simply not necessary, breeds resentment. We’re certainly not racing for the finish line — everyone gets to the end of life at some point — so stepping on each other along the way helps no one. Not even yourself in the long run.
The modern definition of “success” isn’t, really. You might achieve temporary gains in the form of a big house, a nice car, a beautiful mate; but true success, and the joy and satisfaction derived therefrom, is found when our efforts help more than merely ourselves or our immediate family.
The truly talented recognize this, and use their talents to serve in some capacity. The truly successful also acknowledge that their success is due not merely to their individual efforts, but to all the people who helped them along the way. If a so-called “successful” person tells you that they did it all on their own, don’t believe them. They’re lying to you, and probably to themselves.
It takes a village.