Trial, Error, and Forgoing Elite God Complexes

We wrap up the Outlier Lifestyle Challenge with a touch of melancholy. Yes, the sun has set upon one of our most successful community-wide events. I wholeheartedly hope that, while showing breadth and depth in design, it only proves to be a starting point for an ever-inspired life, a place (or opportunity) from which to continue pursuing your evolution. Perhaps, new habits abound. Perhaps, you developed a delicate awareness of what might be possible. Perhaps, nothing changed whatsoever. Regardless of your success, and there was an abundance, I’m certain of one thing: the end of your journey is nowhere in sight. And another trial or challenge, if you will, awaits.

It’s easy, following a period of struggle, learning and success, to consider ourselves enlightened. In life’s perpetual pursuit of ‘something’…something like happiness, we find ourselves more informed than before, than others. Forging ahead, we develop a deeper understanding from our trials. And, after experiencing a certain amount of success, find what works. You mean the truth? That’s right – THIS is it. Hallelujah! It’s ours! Gradually, we develop an unshakable and inflated sense of infallibility. Proclaiming ourselves as an expert on matter X (see: nutrition, fitness, etc), we condemn the frail attempts of those not in the know, or at least ‘our’ version of it. This is the god complex and, sadly, it’s more common than we’d care to admit. I’ll be the first to confess, I’m sometimes guilty of wearing both the know-it-all and the one-upper badges of shame. It’s too easy to assume our habits are the best. What I do works, why would anyone dally elsewhere? Because! Because, like any of life’s venerable pursuits, those proclaiming to possess the answer are, typically, those furthest from it. Follow the man who seeks truth; run from the man who has found it, the old saying goes. Dogma, anyone?

During a cold December night in 1914, a substantial chemical explosion erupted in New Jersey. More than half of Thomas Edison’s plant was ablaze and with it, an immense part of his life’s work. Multiple fire departments sped to the scene, but the chemically-fueled inferno was beyond control. Edison’s son, Charles, in an article from Reader’s Digest (1961), recalled standing beside his father as they watched the flames destroy his work. Tranquilly, Thomas said, “Go get your mother and all her friends. They’ll never see a fire like this again.” Stunned, Charles tried to rebut but was silenced by more stoic words – “It’s alright. We just rid ourselves of a lot of rubbish.”

I dare not enumerate the volumes to be learned from the life and times of Thomas Edison, but, it seems appropriate to ferret out a lesson from this story. Particularly, his approach to what most perceive to be a monumental loss or, better yet, a challenge to his research. Regardless of his mighty success, Edison, in beautiful fashion behaved in a manner proving to be the antithesis to a god complex. He lived a life that embraced challenge…even those challenging his research. Embrace an obstacle? Yes, to Edison, a challenge provided opportunity to broaden understanding, chase evolution, discover…everything.

Before entirely ushering you gently into that great [OLC-ending] good night, I’d offer you a final challenge. It’s simple: forgo the assumption of having THE answer and seize opportunity to make mistakes while seeking it. ‘It’ being our next pursuit. Fail? Yes, fail! With gusto, I challenge everyone to face their, and every conscious being’s, most innate fear, the fear of shame and failure. These worries prevent progress on every front. As discussed, our most common misstep is one towards arrogance – assuming you’ve the answers to all those questions in pandora’s ‘box’ [of fitness]. I, along with Socrates, would argue that ‘only true wisdom lies in knowing you know nothing’. The rules of the OLC were meant to be broad with their stroke. Are they legitimate standards? Absolutely. Are they life determinants? Not quite. Without fear, go tinker. Try putting a wrinkle in your training, in your nutrition, your sleep. Then, observe the difference. Do you feel the same, better or worse? Use pictures, film, and other techy, tracking tools and, while you’re at it, pay extra homage to Edison for his additional help along the way. Try and try again, until you fail. Then, embrace the next opportunity, with fresher understanding and less ‘rubbish’ in tow.

Sure, it’s comfortable to lay down the law. It hurts to be challenged, to change, to adjust course. Admitting our fallibility is hard. But, you, like Edison, have the paradox of choice while facing obstacles. Pursuit of happiness, you say? Nay! That approach depends much too heavily on a destination. I simply ask you to seek happiness in your pursuit. Once you learn to embrace the eternal cycle of trial and error, you’ll notice immeasurable improvement in your disposition. Failure is an inevitable part of life….as is success. It’s no small task – to make mistakes. Particularly, making them in the right direction, but it may prove most enlightening along your way.

Seeking wisdom from the woe,