There are prices to be paid for everything. Food costs you money. Reading a book takes up your time. And working that job you hate is costing you your sanity. Just like there are prices to be paid for these things, greatness comes at a price.
Although it is easy to believe people are great by default it is not true. Just because we believe something doesn’t make it true. To be great at anything requires a large sacrifice. All great achievement is possible because the achiever is willing to pay the necessary price. You can’t be great without paying the required price, but that doesn’t stop us from believing so. And even if you could skip the price and achieve greatness, you shouldn’t want to. Then you would have to live with knowing you shortcutted your way to the top. There are few worse realizations.
It’s easy to assume that people become great by accident; that greatness is something that happens to them. But that is not true. How can it be? If it were that easy, everyone would be great. And if you look around, that is not the case. As human beings, it is easier to believe that things just come to people. It is easier to think that people stumble upon greatness instead of sacrifice for it. And it’s easier to believe that you are great by default instead of working hard towards a goal. But that is our nature: we choose to believe things are easy. This belief makes us feel better when we are assuming, unorganized, and lazy. Our nature allows us to accept our circumstances as fate.
Achieving greatness in sports is one example. There are no secrets to success in team or individual sport. Being a great athlete requires certain things of you. You must be willing to sacrifice your body if you want to be elite. Pushing your physical limits likely leads to pain and injury. Many of the greatest athletes have persevered through gruesome injuries in pursuit of their goals. But they kept going and refused to quit. They understood this to be part of the process of becoming great.
Take the Olympic athlete. They often train for years to perform one event. Years and years of training for a race that might last less than 60 seconds. It is unbelievable to think of the time invested and energy sacrificed for the chance to compete in just one event. This is a huge price to pay, but they accept it knowing it’s necessary to be great.
Authors also know this sacrifice all too well. If you want to write, you in a way must become your book. Great authors spend years writing a few hundred pages or less. They spend hours each day crafting their masterpiece. After the hours they invest into the writing of their work they spend the rest of their time reading and thinking about how to improve it. It is an exhausting, expensive process. It costs them time, money, and energy, but they know there is no other way to produce what they want. If they want to produce great work, this is the price they must pay.
Being great is for the select few. Most people are average, some are good, and few are great. Greatness comes at too high a cost for people to accept and pay. But for the few willing to pay its price, the rewards are ready for them. If you look at any great achiever, you will find they paid a high price to get where they are. All great athletes, musicians, authors, and entrepreneurs paid the necessary price to be great.
The problem we face is that people want to be great without paying the necessary price. There is a price along with greatness, and you cannot separate one from the other. Many of us don’t think the price applies to us. We like to believe we can write a bestselling book without the years of research and struggle to choose the right words. We tell ourselves we can be an elite athlete without years of practice, failure, and disappointment. One thing we know is that greatness requires more than wishful thinking and dreams. It requires sacrifice and an acceptance of the price it takes to get there.
Although it is easy to believe many of these things, greatness cannot be cheated, lied to, or fooled. It is too smart, and the requirements are too simple and well-known. You cannot cheat the system. You can try, but one way or another you will fail if you resist paying the price. While you can talk about being great, dream about great performances, and imagine yourself living like your idols, you never will be without sacrifice. You can imitate greatness, but you’ll never achieve it unless you are willing to pay its price.