How Far Would You Go to Be Great?


How Far Would You Go to Be Great?

Whiplash was one of the most intense movies I’ve ever seen. I can’t recommend it enough. And don’t worry, there aren’t any spoilers below that you don’t already see in the trailers.

Watch this movie if you want to be at the edge of your seat sweating like you just ran a 3-mile cross country meet while simultaneously being inspired to do something awesome.

The whole thing boils down to this:

Andrew Neyman wants to be the world’s greatest drummer.

If being great means he had to endure the psychological (and physical) torture of a teacher who goes too far, so be it, as long as that man can take Andrew to greatness.

If being great means he has to continue practicing even when his hands are bloodied and no longer able to hold the sticks… He’ll power on. In fact, he’ll have an ice bucket by his drum kit, fully anticipating the hurt that’s going to come along.

And of course, he has a poster of the world’s greatest drummer on his wall, which reminds him of what he’s fighting for.

I love this movie because it makes you wonder:

How far would you go to be great?

If opportunity came knocking at your door right now while your pants were down, would you ask it to wait as you pull them back up?

What sacrifices would you make to achieve your definition of greatness?

How much agony would you endure if it meant raising your chances of success?

To this date, I’ve made several sacrifices in my attempt to become great (and will continue making more.)

I left my friends and family for a year to go overseas to work closely with many of the smartest people I know.

Sometimes I lock myself in the room to work all day and night, forgetting to eat a couple meals here and there.

Perhaps more frequently than I should, I sometimes miss getting together with my friends or going to the mall with my family.

What does greatness mean to you?

And what are you doing today to make sure you get there?

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Vincent Nguyen is the author of Self Stairway and founder of Growth Ninja, a digital marketing agency that specializes in Facebook Ads. Voted "Most Guapo" five years in a row (lost during 6th year to a hand model.)

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20 responses to How Far Would You Go to Be Great?

  1. Interesting question. Looking back over life I’d say the answer would depend in part on where I am in life and what’s taking on the most importance. When I was working on my Ph.D. I did everything I could to achieve my goals. A few years back I toyed with the idea of going back to school to get a second Ph.D. in a related intriguing topic. Then I remembered how hard it all was and was quite clear I wasn’t going to do that again. Maybe it’s like having a baby. Once that baby is out you don’t say, “wow, that was fun, let’s do it again.” If you’re young enough, maybe you do eventually do it again but how many Ph.D.s does one need? What’s most important to me now is nurturing relationships.

    • Interesting point about stages.

      Right now, my #1 priority is my business. It has to be because it’s still in its early stages.

      Although I’ve been gone for a year (and I’ve only been back in AZ for one month,) I still find myself declining invitations to parties, hiking trips, etc. with my friends because I’ve got a long to-do list of work that day.

      Perhaps my priorities will shift in a month, a year, or maybe even tomorrow, but I’ll shift my focus when my mind naturally does so.

  2. The hardest part of being great is keeping it up. I’ve been fortunate but it never stays around forever. Not only that but if you are really putting your whole focus into whatever, the epitome, that special time can slip past almost unnoticed and then it’s just a memory. And then on to the next thing. In addition, no matter how good you are, there is always someone waiting to take your place. And unfortunately some people will do anything to take it. Keep an eye open in the back of your head. I’m not saying don’t trust, but verify.

    You are great and don’t forget it. Jab-jab 😉 Now if you want to be competitive, use leverage. Good people will help you get there. I gotta see that movie. Sounds inspiring.

    • For me, it’s a constant grind to stay motivated. I was just telling Holly in the above comment about how I’ve recently started a business and it has taken its rightful place as #1 priority.

      I’ve gone through tons of mental ups and downs already in just a 2-week period.

      I had the overwhelming feeling of ecstasy when I pulled the trigger and began gunning for my first clients.

      I had my first successful close and a giant smile on my face once I got off the phone.

      I had the “riding a giant wave” feeling that put me on top of the world.

      Then… I also had the feeling like I was going to lose it all.

      I felt my body and mind getting too tired from working non-stop all day and night.

      I felt like I was taking a risk and started wondering whether or not my safety net should’ve been cut.

      I felt stress because one of my clients was no longer being responsive.

      But you keep going on regardless of what you’re feeling.

      I have no idea whether or not my current venture will work out. I see the potential and it’s getting great feedback, plus, it appears that things are working out… But you never really know how it’ll play out over X years.

      Doesn’t mean I’m not going to try!

  3. this a very good question!!!
    as far as we want to go we need to it with good values and take our own pace.
    thanks for this article
    from a french follower

  4. When I lost my job recently, I thought for a while it was like some end of the world. But deep inside, it was an opportunity, that have long been there waiting. I quickly embarked on a plan and went ahead testing the ground and moving forward. Now I am ready to go far and no turning back to achieve my dreams! I have come into terms with what I can really do, leverage my advantages and succeed!

    • I haven’t shared this too publicly (I’ve only began changing some of my online profiles a few days ago), but I quit my dream job a couple weeks before New Years.

      Going all-in on my new business and it’s a scary, but rewarding, feeling.

      Best of luck to the both of us, Rob!

  5. Thanks, Vincent! I’ll have to go see this movie. Greatness to me means using all the talents and gifts you have to create something to make the world better. For me, I try to do something every day to get my words out there, by learning, researching, and meeting people, to actually writing and developing ideas. Today, I’m reading my favorite blogs for inspiration!

  6. How far would I go to be great? That is a difficult question to answer. First, what is greatness? I have created the best software (in an educational topic) on the planet, but it doesn’t compare to the greatness of my friends who raise good children. That (raising children) takes years and years of dedication.

    I measure my greatness in the number of friends who confide in me and who share their joys and sadness. Being a great friend is more important to me than being a celebrity or being rich. And when I sit down and think of what I would do with big money, it would involve sharing with those friends who, from first grade through the present, have enjoyed my company.

    Being great also means, to me, forgiving those who have hurt me and trying to never hurt another. We are on this planet one time (in my opinion) and the best thing that I can do is to appreciate each minute of life… and to be ready to die without feeling guilt for harming another person or harming the planet.

    You also asked “what are you doing today to be great?” This morning a friend confided in me that he is moving to California to be near his kids. Nobody else in my city knows of his decision. I have been a great friend to him. This afternoon I am taking my mom to a late lunch. We have invited a widow who is lonely. She needs friends. Later this evening I will phone a friend who has leukemia and we will argue about religion and politics and we will talk about his hobbies. I love him. I love several people. They (mostly) love me back. So in their eyes, I am already great.

    • Kudos to you. Thank you for existing 🙂

    • After reading your comment, all I could say is “wow”.

    • And I’m a friend who confides in you. More than happy to share both joys and sadness (though it seems we usually focus on the former!)

      Bob, you’re a good person and the people in your life really appreciate you. Don’t you dare ever forget.

      • That is what makes us friends. It is like a ladder that we climb… step by step. The more that people trust each other, the stronger their friendship. And the reward of knowing that friends trust us provides tiny explosions of love between friends (the endorphins, perhaps).

  7. Oh man, right on the mark 🙂

  8. I have to disagree here. Personally I think well-being and health is more important than greatness.

    If you’re the best drummer in the world, but have no social relationships, have bloodied hands and feel psychologically tortured by never feeling good enough – what kind of masochistic life is that?

    What happens if that drummer had his arms amputated after a road accident? Or if people stopped liked listening to drummers? Or something else which meant he couldn’t drum any more

    His identity is SOOOO wrapped up in his work, that he’d feel like he died. He’d fall into a deep depression, maybe consider killing himself.

    You know greatness has it’s price – and if it’s costing you your happiness and wellbeing… it’s not a trade worth making in my opinion.

    • That’s exactly what I love about the movie. It doesn’t push greatness on you as the epitome of success and happiness. It’s actually quite ambiguous in its nature and explores the dark side of being pushed too far.

      The movie is quite dark in that sense.

      I know where my boundaries are and I have an inner limit in mind. I know exactly how far I’d go and I’m far from the line. But that doesn’t mean I won’t be making sacrifices along the way.

      The movie asked this question in subtle form. I asked it right in the headline.

      Glad to see you here again, Alex!

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