Alexander the Great. Even though he lived on this Earth for only 33 years, some 2,300 years ago, we have yet to forget his name and legendary battles.
During his short life, nothing stopped him. Nothing. Huge armies with elephants, impregnable fortresses, vast distances over mountains and rivers and deserts, hunger, thirst, the sea itself, the uttermost extremes of physical hardship and war. His body was littered with scars; everywhere that is, except his back. That’s because the world’s greatest commander never retreated, and he never lost a battle.
Most of his portraits, sculptures, and coins reflect a kind of upward gaze as if he were staring into the very heavens, yearning for something unreachable.
He dedicated his life to the struggle against insurmountable odds. And he became great because he surmounted them all.
“There are too many of us and we are all too far apart.”
I’m writing these words knowing that people from all over the world are going to read them. People of all ages, ethnic and cultural backgrounds, of different religious beliefs. Most of them, I’ll never get a chance to meet. Most of them, I don’t know how they look like, what’s the thing they want most in this world, or what is it that they’re afraid of… most of them are perfect strangers to me.
Yet, simply by writing these words, having the certainty that my words will reach them, they become a little bit more than strangers. They become human beings, just like myself, and that is one of life’s greatest achievements.
Because it’s become increasingly difficult to realize that every single person we see walking past us on the street is another human being. We have become immune to everything but ourselves: we see tragedy and pain on the news, read about it in newspapers… it all feels fake somehow. We can no longer empathize with others, just because we’re so many… so, so many.
And we really are so far apart from each other, because we all build invisible walls to keep us safe. It’s all about our needs, our desires, our pain, our tragedies. We want what we want, and we won’t give up until we have it.
“If today were the last day of your life, would you want to do what you are about to do today?”
Jobs asked this question in his 2005 Stanford Commencement Address. He told the audience that he looked in the mirror every morning and asked himself that question, and whenever the answer was “no” for many days in a row, he knew something had to change.
This simple habit reveals a person who was incredibly passionate, disciplined, a true visionary, one who wanted to conquer the world, no matter yet.
Looking at yourself in the mirror, asking a question we all dread means that you are ready to carpe diem, as the Romans used to say. You are ready to do live each day as if it were your last, because one day you’ll most certainly be right.
This brings us to the first lesson we can learn from the genius co-founder of Apple.
People often think of success as a singular moment. It’s not.
Think of it this way. One day you get sick and tired of always being sick and tired by the way you look. You can’t stand seeing yourself in the mirror, so you decide it’s time to go to the gym.
You work out for a day or two. What happens after that? Do you see any results? Do the people around you?
If nothing changed, are you a failure? What happened?
Do a lot of people give up because after one, two, twenty workouts, there’s still no visible change? There’s no one to acknowledge their work? What if they quit, and then start over, and then quit again, and then start again… and one day, they just keep going?
If they keep working out, going to the gym, day after day after day, and then, one day, they look in the mirror and they go like, “Wow.” And all their friends and family congratulate them on what they achieved.
Is that the moment when they became successful? Or did everything before that moment lead to the moment when everyone else acknowledged their success?
Think of a time when you felt broken beyond repair. When life dealt that punch you didn’t see coming, put you to your knees like a penitent, and made you reconsider everything you ever did or thought or said.
Come on, don’t pretend like you’re perfect. This stays between you and me. Remember the feeling of having reached rock bottom: the darkness, the frustration, the gnawing sense of having lost it all, never to be recovered. The longing after what could no longer be, what you could no longer be.
It made you want to change things, right?
Desperation makes for a hell of a motivator, doesn’t it?
Well… on 22nd of April 2012 I launched a blog. Nothing too fancy. After all, I was a poor, sick, and lonely Romanian kid trying to write his depression away in a foreign language.
But, somehow, after six or so months, I had reached over 20, 000 blog readers, was earning between $100 and $800 per day, and… I kind of screwed up. Big time.
And it took me so long to figure this out, that I’m just now, almost eight years later, writing about the behind the scenes of being an overnight success, and what that did to me.