Let me ask you a simple question: Do you want to be great? My guess is you do.
Yet, not just great. You want to be the greatest of all.
But what does greatness look like? And do you possess those qualities as a writer or blogger or online marketer?
Exceptional Creative Achievement from Exceptional People
In his 1995 book The Price of Greatness, Arnold Ludwig answers age-old questions about the relationship between mental illness and greatness.
More importantly, he reveals the essential elements that predict exceptional creative achievement from exceptional people.
Who are these exceptional people? Winston Churchill. Leo Tolstoy. Albert Einstein. Samuel Beckett. Vincent van Gogh. Martin Luther.
People who stand out as giants in history.
And what are these essential elements of exceptional achievement they possess?
I thought you’d never ask.
Ludwig argues that rather than any single attribute being identified with greatness, it’s a special combination of elements. Eight, in fact. Here they are.
Think prodigy. Perfect pitch. Photographic memory. An ear for languages. Great mathematical skills. These exceptional people read widely. Practice incessantly. Study under top teachers. And become servants to their own talent: they constantly seek ways to perfect and express it.
Take away for bloggers: Are you constantly seeking ways to master the art of writing? Do read widely [books, blogs, magazines, journals] and non-stop? And do you study the top writers and bloggers like Brian Clark and Leo Babauta?
Right Kind of Parents
In general, parents of the truly great seem to recognize the exceptional qualities of their children and provide them with the necessary educational opportunities and resources to reach their goals.
Take away for bloggers: This one is a little harder to apply to bloggers, so here we go. Do you have the material resources to reach your goals? Can you get them? Better yet, maybe you can help someone else if you do have the resources.
Given their tendencies towards iconoclasm, these individuals are often at odds with others. Their style may seem confrontational. Sarcastic. And even challenging. You see a streak of wildness in their work that resists domestication.
Take away for bloggers: Are you trying to fit in with the crowd? Or are you intentionally challenging the status quo? Are you looking for ways to stand out? To confront? To appear slightly off your rocker? And does it come natural? James Chartrand is the model contrarian.
The capacity for solitude is important for the great. If they kept up active social lives, spent lots of time with their families, became actively involved in professional organizations and participated in community activities, they simply would not have time and energy left for their work.
Take away for bloggers: This one’s tricky. If you listen to people like Chris Brogan and Gary Vaynerchuk, social media is all about other humans. Building community. That, my friends, takes a lot of work. And is hard on a loner. My suggestion, nurture community–but not at the expense of writing exceptional blog posts.
Exceptional people tend to have a history of life-threatening sickness or a disability. In reaction, they tend to develop solitary pursuits like reading and writing. It’s not so much that these physical afflictions promote creative achievement. Rather exceptional individuals take advantage of them.
Take away for bloggers: The beautiful thing about blogging is you can use physical vulnerability to your advantage. Think Jon Morrow. Disabled but highly productive, creative and an eminent blogger. World’s Strongest Librarian is another example.
A Personal Seal
Exceptional people can exert enormous influence on their disciplines. Leaders and generals define entire eras. Inventors and thinkers are linked with their discoveries. Artists leave a disctinctive seal on their art. Social activists transform societies. Writers become immortalized with their works.
Take away for bloggers: Identify with what you do. View it as a personal extension of yourself. Invest a personal stake in your blog. And make that stake huge. Hugh McLeod is the darling of purposeful and personal work.
Drive for Supremacy
Beyond professional ambition and mere aggressive influence, exceptional people behave as if they are compelled to be the leader, champion, master, founder, hero or pioneer. This compulsion is fueled by an enormous self-confidence. They accomplish the goals they set–which are no small goals. Grand visions, large-scale projects, risky undertakings and monumental achievements mark this drive for supremacy.
Take away for bloggers: Look deep down inside yourself and ask, “What do I want people to say about me when I die?” And is it big enough to make a dent in the universe? Is it big enough to attract the attention of a million–maybe even a billion–people? If not, start again. Ideal candidates? Huffington Post? TechCrunch? But honestly, who’s not?
Massive achievements do not rise from a peace of mind. It comes from a restless, discontent, impatient and driven mindset where success does not satisfy for long. Mood swings. Episodes of inexhaustible energy. Heightened confidence. And an abundant addiction to ideas is common.
Take away for bloggers: Do you push yourself to find topics that demand attention regardless of the negative response they could represent? Do you discipline yourself to search for ideas that confront and challenge others? Do you lose sleep over your legacy or your sense of its inadequacies? And the best person who fits this description is me.
As I suggested earlier, some of this advice flies in the face of the conventions of the community minded. So be it. I’d rather encourage outrageous achievement over mindless mediocrity any day.
And I think you should, too.