Today as I was driving to work in the rain, I got to thinking about all of the great things that I was supposedly going to be and do in my life.
I was, at various times after college, destined (I use the term loosely) to be a performer, a professor, an import/export business owner, a pastor, a real estate broker, an elder/deacon, a writer. When I say “destined”, I mean that this was the thing that was going to be the focus of my life, that would be the vehicle for my success. Big things, public things, visible things. I was to be important and respected, a man of parts in a world that sorely needed one, to set policy and solve problems and be the visible leader of great things and great change.
None of that, as you know, worked out. Every one of those avenues ended up leading to a dead end and the thing that I had chosen after graduate school, the industry that I am currently in, – mostly for desperation of a steady paycheck and benefits - became the one that has essentially been my constant companion for 90% of that time.
This thought wove itself in and out of my head until, at work, a small discovery was made. An error, an oversight -not vastly significant but one that should have been caught by several (including me) but was not.
And all of a sudden I realized my life has become of the small and the silent, of the details that underlie the main focus of activity – critical work, necessary work, but the quiet work of the backstage at the play, of the editor on the author's work, of the lineman that provides power to the coder.
I have resented this role, to be sure. This is the role not of the great, of the mover and shaker, of the significant but rather of the shadowed, the small, the silent. But if I look at all the time past since I graduated from school, every road that lead to a cliff forcing me to retrace my steps, my life keeps coming back to this.
There is a message here for me, I think. And not necessarily a message I have always wanted to hear.
Maybe this is really is my role. Maybe the path to my success or influence, to whatever degree it will exist, is to be based not on being grand and doing the great things but quite the opposite: the filling of small gaps, the completion of the silent tasks, the completion of the minor tasks that make the thing complete even when no-one else realizes that those are the things that made it happen. Maybe it is less about how that success or influence is achieved and a lot more about my ego in the whole matter, the fact that I may be effectively invisible and largely unacknowledged except as part of the grand summation, not as the great individual.
But that is really my problem. The question is, will I let my perceived need for greatness and recognition get in the way of actually doing the sorts of things I was perhaps put here to do?