Josh Irby

Live from Sarajevo

Most people want to be great, few are willing to pay the cost

Lately I have been thinking about the idea of greatness. It is something that most of us want—to do something important, to make a great contribution, to leave a lasting mark. Few people strive for mediocrity. Yet, anyone who has seen a bell curve realizes that the majority of us wind up in the middle. Average. Why is that? (add your thoughts below in the comments) Is it that a select group of humankind is endowed with the unique gene for greatness? (i.e. nature) Is it that only a few of us grow up in the right environment for greatness? (i.e. nurture) Or is it something else?

These questions have been on my mind because of the 100th anniversary of Miss Irby‘s death which is a week away. Here we are talking about a woman who died a century ago. That is amazing. The quality of her life was great enough that it was not soon forgotten. She left a lasting mark.

But, what cost did she pay to leave that mark. Here is a quick, off the top of my head, list:

  • She left her comfortable life in England to live in a foreign, and much less comfortable, land.
  • She was never married.
  • She never had children of her own.
  • She spent a lot of her own money. All the proceeds from her books went directly into her humanitarian work.
  • She was never certain what the future would bring. After five years in Sarajevo, a war engulfed the region. After the war, she was almost not allowed back into the country. Uncertainty defined her life.
  • She (eventually) lost touch with her family and friends back in England.
  • She endured extreme weather and harsh traveling conditions.
  • She was lonely at times.
  • She put herself in danger of physical harm.
Those are just the ones I could think of right now.

If your aim be comfort, do not go to the Slavonic parts of Turkey; and if you go there seek not comfort and flattery, but to make acquaintance with the people.   Adeline and Georgina (1867)

If that is the cost of greatness how many of us still want it? You can’t get into the party unless you pay the cover charge.
What do you think?

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