I have run down - or at least am willing to admit to - the reason that I don't try harder.
Senior year of high school, Spring Musical. If you were involved in any kind of annual performance, you understand the way things work: it's a seniority thing. Year by year you participate, slowly climbing the rung of "extra" to "says a few lines" to senior year, where seniors typically get the lead roles as it is their last year.
My senior year we did "The Sound of Music": Maria, Edelweiss, the whole works. Threemajor male leads, three major female leads. Three seniors, including myself, audition. Two of the three seniors move on to the lead roles.
I am not one of them.
I participated of course: played the butler (I always played the butler) and the local political chief, but the reality, at least the one that stuck in my head, is that if you follow the system and do all that's called for, you'll still only be second violin.
You wouldn't think this would be so crippling: after all, I was almost 18 when it happened (seemingly far beyond the years where such things make an impression) and it was only one item. But a significant one: it reinforced every concept that I had that I was only a support personnel, never a leader, and that no matter how hard one works it is always subject to whims beyond your control.
But to some extent, it probably explains why to this day I have always tended to move away from leadership roles and putting in all my effort: why, when it will at best mean nothing and at worst will be time and energy wasted.
It would seem foolish to base the outcome of one's life on a failure to be a lead almost 25 years ago, and even more foolish to use that as a lens to map out the future. Unfortunately for me, I am more wont to be foolish than I am to learn from the past.
I cannot go back and get the lead (nor would I want to). I cannot go back and change the past based on a lens that was overcorrecting for a problem that was not there. I can, however, accept the fact that one failure to achieve through playing by the rules and effort is not indicative of how things work all the time. For that example, there are others in my life that effort and rules have resulted in great success. I need to turn to them, instead of the sad murmuring of a ghost that cannot be restored.
Today is a New Day.