I recently heard Elon Musk interviewed on The Daily Show. Curious to learn more about him, I read his Wikipedia profile. According to Wikipedia, Musk has two undergraduate degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and dropped out of graduate school at Stanford to found his first start-up, which he sold for millions of dollars. He used the proceeds to fund his next start-up, which ultimately became PayPal, and used the proceeds from the sale of PayPal to fund his next venture, SpaceX, which was the first privately fund company to put a satellite into orbit. How do you feel? 1) Are you reminded of everything you haven’t accomplished, or 2) does such achievement give you hope for the possibilities your future? Or 3) do you feel nothing – “What an interesting guy,” you briefly ponder, before resuming your day?
I am in between one and two. I would prefer to be three – able to appreciate the accomplishments of others without relating them to my own, but I am human, susceptible to comparing myself to others and allowing the comparison to inform my feelings of self-worth. Though, before I compare, I have to subjectively define “better” and accept it as objectively true; I have to place a judgment on the value of a life, complete with choices inevitably informed by emotion and without the value of hindsight. In being human and comparing myself to others I have to assume that those others are not inflicted with the follies of humanness nor limited by a set of characteristics that inevitably restrict the execution of our choices. We are not all physicists nor artists. We will not all obtain great wealth or notoriety. What would we have left if we dismissed everything in between our perceptions of perfection?