Why We Shouldn’t Try To Be Awesome

At the new magazine In Earnest, which launched yesterday, Emily Schatz wrote about why young people need to “stop trying to be awesome.”

One problem with the “be extraordinary” model is that, for spirits with any temptation toward vanity, it can become a preoccupation with how put-together one looks at the expense of accomplishing real goals—a model for workplace failure if there ever was one. More fundamentally, it isn’t true to life. It elevates natural virtuosity over hard work and study, first impressions over lasting results, and pride over humility. One does not become extraordinary simply by wishing to be.

And that brings us to the beauty of ordinary things. Flowers, coffee, your mom’s kitchen, and your favorite orchard walk didn’t come into being as a result of someone’s trying to be awesome. They came about because someone (or someone’s employee) had the patience to pull weeds, roast beans just so, buy groceries, and prune the trees.

I think this is an important conversation worth having – as Emily points out, the rhetoric of “being awesome” and “being all that you can be” and “fulfilling your potential” can cripple us when we’re trying to live well. And this isn’t just for young people, I suspect. (What do you think?)

The magazine’s worth checking out – it’s aimed at “hosting conversations that inspire and equip women to practice lives of consequence.” (Full disclosure: it was started by several of my former students and a couple of friends, and I’m very proud!)


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