Chasing Greatness I – The Return of the forgotten Virtue

A dream or a manifesto. I am not sure. You tell me.

Sidney Mazzi – 13 min read

More than 10 years ago, I uncovered a secret — an idea — that led me on the most amazing journey. A journey that profoundly changed my view of the world. It even altered the way that I see the problems we all face. The secret turns out to be a simple idea. Maybe it is the world’s simplest idea. Yet, it is so powerful that it has the potential to solve most of the problems of the world. It tackles the root of almost all problems. Including yours. For now, let’s call it, the ‘Forgotten Virtue.’

What is intriguing to me, is that the Forgotten Virtue was not always … well, a forgotten. Our ancestors thousands of years ago knew of it. Yes, for centuries, civilizations used this simple idea to guide their lives. But, somewhere on the way to this present moment, it was lost. All I did was bring it back to my reality. And I hope that, by the end of this article, you decide to bring it back to yours, too.

Let’s start.

What are our most common dreams?

I want to be rich, beautiful, popular, famous … as kids we often said we wanted to be a soccer player or basketball player. Later, we wanted to become a tech entrepreneur, doctor or an accountant (hey, what’s wrong with accountants….? Kidding).

But dreams are more than that. At the same time, we can desire to become a wife or a husband, to have kids and become a mum or a dad, etc. Dreams can even be specific. For example, I want to be a cool dad. Not just any dad. A cool one. This is important to me.

Anyway…

So, there are several layers and dimensions to our dreams, right? At work, at home, how we want to be recognized among friends, and so on.

Now, imagine you filled all those dreams into one person. Like a super version of you.

There will be a few conflicts among your dreams, but you get the picture.

This super version of you we will call your ‘Ideal Self.’ A super self. It is the sum of all your DREAMS. Cool, aye?

This, my friends, is the beacon that guides your life. If you were a captain of a ship, it would be the paradise island you’d be chasing, okay? I often call it my ‘Personal Holy Grail.’ 

As you’d expect, you will admire people who look like your Ideal Self. Something in them has the characteristics of what you aspire to be.


If you wish or want to be a great entrepreneur, you may look at Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos as guides or role models.

Not surprisingly, everyone’s Holy Grails are different. That’s why you might really care about being beautiful while your partner doesn’t even look in the mirror. People are different, and they admire different things.

We all chase different Personal Holy Grails, and that’s fine.

I have a word for all of this.

What we admire, what we are proud of, can be summarised as our ‘Vanity.’

We love to be recognized by the characteristics that we admire or wish we had.

Here is the KEY:

When it comes to vanity, admiration, pride… all that stuff, most of us lack something essential. Something that has the potential to change our whole perspective of life.

So, what do we lack?

Wisdom. But, more specifically, the pride of trying to being wise.

Now, you might say, “Oh God, here it comes…”

Hold on just a few more minutes. You will see.

For centuries, civilizations have passed down their ideas of wisdom. All over the world, they told stories of a moral and virtuous life. Wise people were praised and admired. But nowadays, you hardly see people talking about such things.

Let’s go back to basics: What is wisdom?

It is not intelligence. And, no, you don’t have to have white hair to possess it — although decades of experience often helps.

Also, being wise is not analogous to being an intellectual. And no, you don’t become wise by simply reading lots of books. It takes much more than that.

WISDOM. It is a simple word that summaries many things.

The simplest definition some people use is “to know a lot.” But that doesn’t help us much, does it? It seems too broad to me.

The dictionary defines being wise as something like “having or showing experience, knowledge and good judgement.” Not particularly helpful either.

But, I promised that I would give you an answer, and so I will also show you here, in my view, the characteristics of a wise person:

Let’s take two-three minutes to analyse wisdom in more detail because wise people really are extraordinary human beings. To start off, what I say will be a bit generic, but hold on just for a few seconds and things will start to become clearer.


WISE PEOPLE

1. Understand humans and their complex minds

Wise people know that there are irrational forces hidden inside each human being. They know that most of our problems come from our insecurities. They can see the real person behind his or her mask. They know what drives human behaviour. They can understand the reasons why each person does what they do. In short, wise people understand the human mind and, as a result, they understand humans. And this is a powerful skill that everyone should master.

Let’s dig deeper.

2. The need for introspection & to escape from the past

Wise people are well aware that people have different backgrounds, skills and dreams. So, they focus on his or her journey — one that inevitably started with a dream of being wise that lead to a commitment to introspection and self-development.

Hence, wise people focus on exploring their own minds. By exploring their thoughts and emotions, they escape haunting memories and are free to chase the future. They are free to become who they really are.

3. Less comparison and need for social approval

As a result, wise people have great self-esteem, and they almost never compare themselves with others. They can be authentic human beings that have very little need for social approval or validation.

4. Self-awareness and humility

Although they know a lot, wise people are aware of their limitations. They are well aware that the world is complex and no matter how much they know, there will always be more to learn. This self-awareness allows them to keep a humble attitude and also avoid certain mistakes caused by overconfidence.

This ability allows wise people to not be impulsive. They pay attention to and question their feelings as if monitoring a control panel, and they react in a manner that they believe appropriate. This ability gives them great control over their bodies and minds. As a consequence, wise people are masters of their emotions.

5. Permanently curious beings & an outsider’s perspective

Wise people are curious about western and eastern cultures, philosophies and ideologies, as well as their pasts. As their curiosity translates into knowledge, wise people become able to see the world from different perspectives.

Every wise person can see any problem from (1) his or hers point of view, (2) yours and even from a (3) a third party’s perspective —  like a sceptical alien observing we humans from another planet.

As a result, wise people can view their lives from an outsider’s perspective, just like citizens from one country have no problem challenging foreign rituals, cultures and behaviours. So, wise people can question aspects of their own lives because they are able to observe themselves from the outside.

6. The meaning of suffering & struggles in life

Wise people understand that life without struggle is an illusion. They know that it wouldn’t even be desirable to have a life without struggle. Because struggle, failure and suffering move us forward and can present opportunities to learn and improve ourselves. You have to struggle. Can you see how wise people change the meaning of struggle and suffering? Instead of avoiding struggle, they embrace it as part of their lives (that doesn’t mean they chase it either). And by doing this, paradoxically, wise people suffer less.

7. Mortality — a guide for better decision making

Regular people distance themselves from the fact that they are animals, creatures that eventually perish. Wise people, on the other hand, use their mortality to their advantage. Doing so provides them with a realistic perspective on life. Wise people plan for the long-term while knowing that no human’s lifespan is certain.

8. Compassion and empathy

A consequence of all this knowledge is that wise people better relate to others — with less judgement and more compassion and understanding.


“A smart person wins all the battles in which a wise one does not enter” — Chinese wisdom.


Wise people are likely to be able to handle high amounts of pressure while remaining calm. They are also extremely patient. Do you get the picture? And, I bet that it sounds good, but at the same time a bit too alien, right? Let me give you a few quick examples because now you might be picturing a wise person as an old fellow on top of a mountain meditating all day, and that’s not what I mean.

An old fellow on top of a mountain meditating all day -> That’s not what I mean

So, let’s move to a more practical example because these people really do have super powers.

Wise people are super heroes. They:

· change their opinion if presented with a better argument

· can give advice and not get angry if the other person chooses not to follow it

· can discuss politics without getting angry, listen to opposing ideas, reflect and sometimes even change their minds — incredible!

In fact, wise people are such extraordinary beings that sometimes they even seem to be able to predict the future. For example:

· In a bar, we praise the person who fought and defended his family. Which is good. But we are oblivious to the wise person who noticed something wrong and left the bar before the trouble started. Got it?

By understanding people and having lots of life experience, a wise person can see problems before they occur — a few minutes or even months or years before, like in the next example:

· Wise people can avoid working for a company because, before a problem arises, they can see that the boss is too greedy and insecure (a deadly combination), and at the first sign of a problem, he or she will most probably throw them under the bus.

Observing from outside, we might simply think wise people are lucky when, in fact, they are much more than that.

Wise people are like super heroes, no?

Now, think about it.

When was the last time you admired someone, not because they are rich, famous, popular or intelligent, but because they are wise? And, let’s not confuse wisdom with intelligence. These two qualities are not the same thing.

Or whom do you admire that fits the criteria above, or appears to be trying to fit, and is always improving and moving in the right direction?

Note that I am NOT saying that you should only admire perfect people.

You can admire a workaholic entrepreneur with a terrible personal life, but a successful business. It would be good to know WHAT to admire and what not, but that’s up to you.

I am talking about adding another layer to your analysis when deciding whom to admire. It is an extra step. Or at least know one wise person to help balance your life.

You’re just one decision away.

Which Path Will You Choose?

So, am I saying that you will become wise if you adopt my idea?

NO, not at all, and I am NOT saying that I AM MR. WISE PERSON, either.

I am talking about making a DECISION. About deciding to admire something. To start paying more attention.

The problem is that most people don’t choose WISDOM as something to admire — either because they forgot what it means or because it seems unachievable.

But you don’t have to ACHIEVE wisdom. You just need to chase it. 

Think of a young boy who admires Michael Jordan and dreams of becoming a professional basketball player. He will watch Michael Jordan’s games and play basketball himself. The reality is that — even though he lives and breathes the game — the young boy may not become a professional player, or even become an outstanding player. But, regardless, he will be a better player than if he had never worked on his basketball skills. That’s what matters.

Think about wisdom.

I am suggesting that it’s good for you to wish you were, aspire to become …. That’s what I am talking about.

Just add your dream to your vanity, to realise your Personal Holy Grail.

You have your dreams. Keep them. It is very difficult to change your dreams, and you won’t do it overnight. But add wisdom to your dream, like “I want to be a WISE, cool dad that is a great professional.” Got it? Just one extra word. One small change.

Adding wisdom to your dreams will change your perspective, your priorities, your decisions, your way of thinking. Make wisdom your passion. It will pay off. Regardless of whether you reach your goal or not, you will live a better life.

For example, if you decide that among the stuff you want to be, one of those is to be a wise person. You will probably start asking questions, like “What would a wise person do in this or that situation?” You won’t necessarily know the answer at the beginning, but that’s how it starts.

Then you start rethinking whom you admire….

You will start noticing, and admiring, people who live good lives with no need to brag and people who are always calm, even in the most difficult situations. These people have no need for swagger….

There must be at least one near you. They won’t show off — he or she wouldn’t be the wise person I am talking about if they did.

So…

Then, you remember that a wise person knows a lot about different cultures, different perspectives… and you will become curious and want to learn more about the cultures of different countries, how people thought in the past (so you will try to learn a bit of history).

Suddenly, your culture or your beliefs are not “the best” anymore, and you will start having a broader view of the world. A more complex view.

You will also remember that I said a wise person understands the human mind. And so you will start wanting to learn more about that too…

And so on…

Naturally, your quest for knowledge, your true curiosity, will explode. You will start looking for experiences that matter, which will add value to your pursuit. You will unleash a new version of you.

As your mind expands, you will be fascinated by how less vulnerable a wise person is to social pressure. How unbreakable they are. And, you naturally will become more authentic.

Sounds good, no?

Now, if you are better motivated by fear:

The bad news is that every day you are getting older. And, advancing years don’t automatically make you become wise. You must try hard and spend decades improving to achieve wisdom. And being old and not wise will not bring you much joy nor pride.

And, in case you are planning to postpone the start of this journey, here is a quote for you:


“A year from now you will wish you had started today” — Karen Lamb.


You might be thinking “Okay. Maybe I should try that. Give it a go. But how can this change the world?”

First of all, striving towards wisdom is good for you, regardless of whether you change the world or not, right?

But, let me now answer your question:

Slowly, people — not everybody, just a few — will start noticing that you are different. Not because you are showing off, either. Rather, they will begin admiring your serenity, and all the abilities of a wise person….

Naturally, you will also become a good role model. An enviable alternative to what people have around them. A person to admire.

And here I am not talking about social recognition as a benefit for you. I am talking about you being a benefit to the world. I am answering your question.

When people ask what’s your secret, you say, “I just ‘want to be wise, that’s all.”

Then, as time goes by, as you show the benefits of wisdom to those around you, people will start aspiring to be wise also. Slowly, this Ideal Self will start to materialise in your community, culture, country, and so on and so forth.

And if we strive for wisdom consistently and for long enough, we can change the world’s Ideal Self. We can add this Forgotten Virtue. Almost everyone in the world wants to be rich and famous. Wouldn’t it be amazing if people also aspired to be WISE? It would be quite something to see the return of the Forgotten Virtue.

I guarantee that any world that has wisdom as part of its Holy Grail will thrive. It will be better off.

Now, this will sound old fashioned, but yes, I have a dream. Imagine a world where the desire to be wise becomes a trend. A world where people help each other without taking selfies while doing so. Imagine a world where people agree and disagree and continue to be friends. Where people are curious about the past and discuss the future. A world where voters demand wise politicians. Where people talk about real problems and discuss solutions for poverty, poor education, pollution… where people that show off their money are not admired. Where the desire to be famous is something to be pitied, not admired. And finally, I want people to rediscover the ability to reflect and wonder.

Maybe one day, instead of hollow selfies, we will even have #wannabewise as one of the top trends on social media with people sharing articles and interesting videos to help educate each other.

The pursuit of wisdom is a slow process. But it’s the only way. If you force things, you won’t be genuine. And if the citizens of our world don’t truly want wisdom, you will not make it happen. We need to convince them. One by one.

Spoiler: The pursuit of wisdom is the hidden message in book. Learn more – CLICK here.


“Patience and time do more than force and rage” — Jean de La Fontaine.


You might think that I am just a dreamer. I describe myself as a ‘sceptical one’ because my dreams are real and anyone who aspires to be wise will benefit, even if they die trying. This is because the journey is good for anyone who decides to adopt the dream of being a wise person, as I did.

I will get there one day. I hope you will be on my side.


“If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together” — African proverb.


It is a long journey. Let’s go together. Subscribe and/or flick me a message.

Next…

Chasing Greatness II – The Diamond of Wisdom

Diamond of Wisdom

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