Falling Short as a Good Thing
When I think about my criticism of other people, I’m disappointed to see how much of it could be more honestly laid bare as “be more like me.” Or when I sit down to lay out a plan of action for someone, how conveniently the course aligns with my natural disposition. If I notice a flaw somewhere, I’m starting to think, and it happens to correspond with one of my own strengths maybe I ought to relinquish claims to judgment.
It’s not pleasant to root out rationalization and subjectivity. You rob yourself of the right to indignation, an intoxicating position. Every time I dig around, I watch as the boxes I’ve trapped people in just disappear along with my superiority. The reality is that the smear of low level mediocrity never shines brighter than on a person unknowingly reacting to something inside them. In fact, the truly impressive part of Gladwell’s New Yorker piece on artists is not his thesis but the fact that it has nothing to do with him. He transcends his own place in the discussion.
So the bold move when you encounter hypocrites may be ignoring the desire to dismiss them. The real question: would you really want to listen to someone whose moral philosophy was just as easily done as it was said?
“The real question: would you really want to listen to someone who’s moral philosophy was just as easily done as it was said?”
I think you’re confusing hypocrisy with ignorance. Most people are fundamentally good people, but poor at thinking about philosophy. So if they say something that is not what they practice, it’s probably because they haven’t sat down and really thought about their moral philosophy. Doesn’t make them a hypocrite. Hypocrisy is a sign of a character defect. Someone who lacks discipline, who lacks temperance, will fault others for not having it. The reason they do so is because they want to imagine themselves having that quality, and faulting others for not having it is a way for them to do that. Nobody consciously trying to better themselves is a hypocrite. The two are utterly contradictory.
If you’re striving, that means you’re going to slip once in awhile. There’s nothing hypocritical about that. The question to pose yourself when faced with such a dilemma is, “Am I really trying to better myself or is this just something I’m telling myself so I can feel better than other people?” For you, Ryan, that should be a no brainer.
I’m not confusing anything. The point is that if you’re not a hypocrite – if you’re only ‘slipping up once in a while – then you’ve set a selection of goals that are easily obtainable.
Seneca, for instance, huge hypocrite. Take away his writings and compare his actions to most people, he’s a disciplined, secular saint. That’s an important distinction.
You’re missing it but that’s fine.
I tagged this video of Frankl talking about falling short for you a while back but I thought it applies to what you’re talking about.
Aspire for perfection and you’ll fall short but you’ll still have reached great heights.
Years ago, I became fanatical when a similar article from Wired on Galenson’s research printed. http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/14.07/genius.html?pg=1&topic=genius&topic_set=
Yet I only could manage to find a couple people insightful enough to grasp the full point. Most would shrug and look back at me blankly and say, “so there are two types of artists.” The point Gladwell gets across so clearly is that there are more ways to harness your creativity if you’re not prodigious. A separate and entirely different method of artistic living can yield equally groundbreaking work.
The trick with helping people is to get personal. The trick with taking criticism is not taking things personal (in understanding that the source of criticism comes from another person).
When you can take that step outside of your bubble, things become more clear and you end up being more productive for yourself as well as the people you help (or criticize).
I’m not sure what you mean by, “The real question: would you really want to listen to someone whose moral philosophy was just as easily done as it was said?” Would you please elaborate?
“would you really want to listen to someone whose moral philosophy was just as easily done as it was said?”
Damn! That is a great line. So often people are comfortable with worthless successes. Antelope live by their creed; it’s not impressive. Having the right goal, even if you can’t attain it – that is far more valuable and rare.