The speaker then asked us to think about what factors made these people great. He then suggested a point that might be drawn from this exercise. I found that I had thought in quite a different direction. Not an opposing direction; just different.
As a side note, I find that I am less prone to single-threaded thinking than I used to be. It used to be that when I found myself drawing different conclusions than an instructor, I would immediately chide myself and work to correct the discrepancy. I have come to realize, however, that in some cases there is no single correct answer and that there can be value in exploring other thought trails.
I sat and mulled over what it was that made those on my list great. My first thought was that each of these people had taken a personal interest in me and had served me. That is, I had (at least at some point in time) a personal relationship with each of these individuals. Each had demonstrated individual concern for me. Moreover, each one engendered in me a sense of personal value.
But there was something more to it. I thought of others that didn’t make my list that had, nevertheless, helped me comprehend my personal value and with whom I had been close. I realized that each of the individuals on my list had helped me stretch to achieve and become more than I thought was possible for me. Sometimes this meant enduring uncomfortable situations. Each of these individuals had required me to try again when I failed and had been confident of my eventual success.
Still, there seemed to be yet another element that was missing, because I could think of a few for whom I could check both of these first two boxes but that were not on my list of greats. I finally concluded that each of my ‘greats’ had been devoted to a cause that was bigger than themselves. They weren’t sacrificing just to do their duty. They cared about the success of a greater cause.
There are probably other elements at play as well. But, in general I can say that the people on my list of those I have known that have demonstrated personal greatness:
- Cared about and served me personally.
- Saw more in me than I saw in myself and helped me become better than I thought I could be.
- Were dedicated to a greater cause.
My life has been blessed by association with great individuals. I doubt that any on my list would consider themselves to be possessed of greatness. But that’s just another point in their favor.