making your mark in the world


“Making your mark on the world is hard. If it were easy, everybody would do it. But it’s not. It takes patience, it takes commitment, and it comes with plenty of failure along the way.”

Barack Obama


Everybody talks about building something. Or create a new life. Or get a new start on things. All of them are aspects of aiming toward making your own personal mark on the world.

Now. Your “mark” doesn’t have to be the front cover of Time magazine. It just may mean making sure you max out on your potential, or be the person you want to be, pretty much anything that has the highest likelihood of leaving a mark on the world around you.

But. Here is a controversial view on this. To do so something needs to be “destroyed.” Why do I say this? Well. Because creation is about the destruction of something.

It can be current thinking, an attitude, a belief, heck, it even may be something as simply as a fence or boundary.

By the way. This is not a small idea. This is truly a “big idea” (unfortunately I didn’t come up with it). Some brilliant economist (a guy named Schumpeter) in the 50’s wrote about the concept of ‘creative destruction.’ It is used as a shorthand description for the free market’s (capitalism) messy way of creating progress.

The main thought is that creative destruction incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one. Someone called it “the perennial gale of creative destruction.”

Anyway. Back to “making your mark” (or having to destroy to create) or creative destruction as it pertains to people and their lives.

Herein lays the paradox of any personal progress.

A person cannot reap the rewards of creative destruction without accepting that some individuals (relationships, friends, companions, “your current circle”) might be worse off, not just in the short term, but perhaps forever. This is a reflection of the fact that personal creative destruction will include destroying part of your current situation and context (which inevitably includes people).

At the same time, attempts to soften the harsher aspects of creative destruction by trying to preserve or protect things will lead to stagnation and decline (in other words slowing down “making your mark” or the change necessary to enable the rewards). Yes. Making your mark does not reside in the zone of mediocrity nor is it typically found in incrementalism. Making your mark often resides somewhere quite near to ‘go big or go home.’

Creative destruction reminds us that, in personal progress, pain and gain are inextricably linked. The process of creating ‘new’ does not go forward without sweeping away at least some preexisting things (that’s the whole destruction thing).

What do I mean?

Beliefs. Progress is about learning and implementing new learning. That sometimes means letting go of old, incorrect beliefs and replacing them with more accurate beliefs. Oh. Some people around you may have liked the old beliefs better.

Behavior. This one is obvious. Changing appearance, enhancing self image, becoming healthier … all of these things mean modifying current behavior in some form or fashion.

Oh. Or it could also be tied to your revised belief structure. Your behavior may be modified by something you learned.

Oh (once again). Changing personal behavior may scare some people around you who was used to, and maybe even kinda liked, the old behavior.

Materialistic stuff. This isn’t just about purging stuff. This is about purging stuff anchored to significant memories. Memories that possibly contain baggage you want to leave behind. Think of it as getting rid of stuff that may slow you down as you move forward. Simplistically you are creating a new future by destroying parts of the past.

Self image. This is ‘destroying’ of aspects the old image in order to gain new identity aspects. This can be as simple as adapting to new responsibilities and new challenges in career. At its toughest its destroying portions of immature identity characteristics and moving in a more mature fashion in life.

In the end. Simplistically we could think of this as decluttering a life to move forward. Serious decluttering often means making hard choices about which things stay and which ones go (& which people stay and which people go as well).

Resistance to creative destruction is counterproductive to happiness (assuming happiness is linked to ‘not being stagnant’). Sure. Change can, and usually will, be uncomfortable. The destroying part can be uncomfortable. The creative part can be scary (you are kind of assuming people will accept the creative change).

Here is the truth. Its only when you get to where you want to go that it becomes comfortable. That is the prize of personal creative destruction. But. The process of creative destruction in our lives is an absolutely necessary part of growing and changing in a positive direction.

Last thought. The tricky part.

Yes. The process of creative destruction helps you pull attention from things that no longer play a valuable part in your life, and frees up energy, mental space, and yes, attention, that you can redirect to focus on new priorities.

But. Creative destruction also means time gets stretched in different ways. So your routine, your typical schedule, can become discombobulated (I love typing that word) and that can often throw even things and people you value out of whack. Basically you are potentially destroying your current way of life.

Anyway. The point is that to “make your mark” at some point you will have to embrace creative destruction in some form or fashion. THAT I can guarantee.

So. To end this.

Schumpeter wrote about creative destruction with competition at its core. Ok. And he may be right (because I assume he was smarter than I). But I prefer Ayn Rand’s perspective on creative destruction with regard to this topic:

A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others.

So. Go make your mark. Go achieve. Go destroy something to create something. But do it for yourself … not with the intent to beat others.

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Written by Bruce