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The Journey to Greatness

by Noah benShea

The following is excerpted from the book The Journey to Greatness by Noah benShea. As seen on Public Television nationwide.

The road to greatness requires self-assessment. It requires each of us to leave some part of us on stage and drag some other attentive aspect of ourselves off stage and into the audience. Sitting there in the audience eating popcorn, we can see what we’re doing and how we’re doing on stage. We can applaud or hiss or cheer, but what we absolutely must do is pay attention. And pass the popcorn to our higher self-awareness. All self-transformation begins with self-witnessing.

The road to greatness is not the road to my idea of greatness, or your parents’, or your significant other’s, or any other publicly traded notion of success that you have bought into without ever thinking about what you were buying.

The really important and entirely relevant question for anyone on the quest to greatness is: What constitutes greatness according to you? What will help you achieve your highest notion of self? You have to determine what that is. Or put another way, you can get anywhere you want in your life, but you’re going to have to show up at the starting line bringing with you not necessarily a sensible sack lunch, or sunscreen, but certainly a vision of what greatness looks like and feels like to you or simply that part in you that is great and you would like to be more of you.




Getting to greatness takes work, because it implies a willingness to work on who you are, and because getting to greatness requires you to get real with yourself, and because getting to this work sooner rather than later is a really good idea. Make this effort a labor of love and it transforms not only the results but you.

Achieving greatness is not something you need to do in a rush; it is something that will take time. Taking a long ride by yourself or a slow walk with a friend, and thinking about the things you will read is its own wise pace. Travelling the road to greatness may be the most important thing you will ever do because it will influence everything you will ever do, and anything worth doing is also worth thinking about and thinking about again.

If you don’t know where you’re going, any path will take you there. So take a moment—right now in this moment, and for as many moments as you need—to identify a particular expression of greatness that matters to you. It may be working to be a more effective team leader, or fine-tuning communication (or listening) skills, or effecting lasting change on a specific initiative that will positively impact the lives of others. Or it may have nothing to do with doing and have everything to do with being—being someone more at ease with the higher, better part in you that you would like to be.

After you have taken that moment, take this moment. After all, all we have are moments, right up until the moment we don’t. In this moment I would like you to identify any potential fear or obstacle that might be challenging you in going forward on this journey to greatness. Another way of seeing this may require you to take a look at where you drag your feet, how you put the brakes on yourself, what is your “stuckness.” Where are you stuck? Have you been stuck? Where do you think you will get stuck? Stick with it for a few minutes, and you will find your “stuckness.” And by the way, don’t get stuck thinking this is something that happens only to you. In some way, on some issue, we all ride the brake. So give yourself a break, cut yourself some slack, think about where you get stuck and see how unstuck simply witnessing this may get you.

There was a Zen monk who was held in high esteem by many in the community. A local teacher, feeling somewhat threatened, thought to himself, “Who is this man to think he is so important when I am a man of great learning?” And the teacher decided to debunk the monk.

When the teacher arrived, the monk sensed the man’s agenda, bowed to him, and began to pour the visitor a cup of tea. When the cup was full, the monk continued to pour until tea was running on the floor.

“Stop pouring,” shouted the teacher. “Can’t you see what you are doing?”

“Oh, my friend,” said the monk, “I can see what I am doing. But my question to you is, If you will not empty your cup, how can I fill it?”

Noah benShea, © 2009 All rights reserved.

Poet-philosopher Noah benShea is author of “The Journey to Greatness and How to Get There” (Corwin Press, 2009). Noah has been quoted on 30 million Starbuck Coffee Cups and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. www.NoahbenShea.com

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