The Not So Secret Path to Greatness
by: The John Maxwell Company
The young girl skipped onto the stage of the dilapidated, half-filled theater hall, her thin voice competing with the noise of an unruly audience. Midway through the first verse of her first song, a beer bottle smashed onto the floor just a yard or so in front of her. The child’s voice quaked momentarily, but she continued to sing. “The show must go on” mentality had already been ingrained in her. As she neared the end of the musical number, the girl struggled to find enough breath to finish her performance. The smoke-filled air reeked of cigarettes and made it especially hard to sing. The girl missed a couple of notes as the song ended, curtsied, and then made her exit to a mixture of applause and boos.
When we think of Academy-Award winner Julie Andrews, we picture her twirling, arms outstretched against the beautiful backdrop of the Austrian Alps—melodiously singing the opening stanzas of The Sound of Music. Whether as Maria Von Trapp or Mary Poppins, Andrews sings and acts so effortlessly that it’s tempting to assume that she was born a star. It’s easy to overlook her humble beginnings, the years she spent as a child touring with vaudeville troupes, performing in seedy auditoriums in front of rowdy, working-class crowds in Britain.
We imagine ultra-successful individuals being endowed with almost superhuman talents. In so doing, we surround greatness with a certain kind of mystique and deem it somewhat inaccessible to the average person. However, success is not contingent on having extraordinary, innate ability. Nor does greatness depend upon some mysterious approach to life. There are no secrets to success—only simple truths, principles, and disciplines that have been around for thousands of years. Sadly, we obscure the reality of success by making a number of misjudgments about it.