The quest for ultra-performance its merits and woes…
I’d be shorthanded in thinking of anyone who strives to be sluggish, useless and wildly ineffective. These qualities may adequately describe some human beings, but it stems not from some goal, rather, from a default way of being in an outer world perceived as harsh, relentless, and unforgiving. Lethargy seems always to be a lack of conviction, never an attribute. Why?
Shifting attention to the premier performers of the modern world, whether in sports, the arts, or business – there we see very much a goal of fast, efficient, worthy and effective action. What calls a person towards an exuberant production of ideas? Excellence itself seems to be the main driving force being brought forth from within from what one’s self has yet to achieve. The simple, yet exhilarating emotion of improvement really is a drug. It is only when this drug becomes addictive, all-consuming, and socially expected does the previously peak performer full of inspiration and joy turn into a stressed, neurotic, worrisome individual.
Unfortunately, in today’s overtly self-revealing society, it feels this dysfunctional peak performer is on the rise. Or maybe, it just seems so because they are the more outspoken individuals and ambitious for the spotlight. Regardless, the question of performing at our best remains a deeply personal one. Excellence, again, comes to mind as a critical motivator for not only individuals throughout history but even civilizations. The forging of governments, constitutions, and laws seek to encourage and, at times, enforce excellence amongst the populace. Religion does much the same through revelatory storytelling which inspires traditions amongst its believers.
However, the elusive mystery of personal excellence provides fertile ground for controversy given that it is a subjective experience. It is only a matter of time when a powerfully charismatic individual proselytizes his own view of excellence and begins to coerce others of his own conviction. Democracy decays into dictatorship. Spirituality spoils into dogma. These forces produce a snowball effect, which can only be reverted by political revolution, or by religious revitalization. One thing is clear though, always in the midst of forced and dysfunctional worldviews, there are always free thinkers.
And here we find ourselves, surrounded by a hugely complex world where every issue has multiple sides – each advocating its own agenda – in a way, each striving for its own ideal of excellence. Granted, a party’s depiction of ideal functionality may only function well for themselves, while overlooking the needs of others. But, I think it’s important to respect and emphasize with each individual, regardless of conviction, for their very real, very visceral sense of excellence. Every human is knee deep in the swamps of existential quagmire – and it seems the only rescuer throwing us a rope is excellence. We’ve all got a terminal illness of doubt of questing for meaning, and the only remedy is excellence.
Forgoing the endless uncertainties of our existence, accepting the strange and improbable fact of our position on this earth, lends itself towards the awareness of our immediate situations in the great enterprise of becoming who we want to be.
The single task of improving who we were yesterday, in the ecstasy of excellence, makes worthwhile our whole lives, from birth to death. The giddy feeling of becoming, of unfolding, learning, expanding one’s heart, extending one’s hand – these continue until our final breaths – if we choose.
And so, in a purely innocent sense, peak performance can give life to the mind. The vigilance of unfolding yourself for your own sake, and not in response to the demands of others, is the whetstone for sharpening the blade of an excellent life.