Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Pushing the Envelope, Part II. Life's Lessons

In my previous post, I commented about the need to push the envelope of surgical technique to continue advancement of the discipline of surgery. This is the argument against complacency. For complacency does not lead to advancement but to stagnation.

Life is not different. Like surgeons with careers of simply doing what they know, the rest of the world is equally full of people who keep the status quo. On the surface, these people may live very successful lives. But, where would we be if that is all we had? If we had no-one who pushed the envelope?

Examples of people who have pushed the envelope are easy. These are people who have gone beyond what might be expected in their respective careers. Take Bill Clinton. He could have stopped after leaving office. Certainly, after 8 years, he could have used a break. Instead, he started the Clinton Global Initiative. This organization convenes global leaders to devise and implement innovative solutions to some of the world's most pressing challenges. Impressive. Or how about Richard Saul Wurman, an author who founded TED (Technology/Entertainment/Design) conferences. TED now represents a global partnership of forward thinkers whose goal is to spread new ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world. In short, they inspire people to push the envelope. Or, Lance Armstrong. Like him or not, doper or not, he has changed the face of surviving cancer.

My list could go on and on. There are surely millions who could be named. But we all know that the list of those of us who are complacent is a bigger one. Why?

One of my best classes in college was a philosophy class called "Man's quest for meaning." It included a diverse reading list, or seemingly so. But, as I delved into the underlying themes in each book, they all started to sound the same. The common theme was that people who are genuinely happy are those that dedicate themselves to a singular goal. And through that dedication to a higher goal, they find that they can in fact go beyond what would be expected.

Which brings us back to pushing the envelope. I believe that for us to progress as a society, we need to push the envelope, and encourage others to do the same. Whether it is in your job, in your hobby, or in being a good parent, spouse or friend, going beyond what might be expected will ultimately advance us to a higher purpose. And, happiness is sure to follow.


Anonymous said...

Very inspiring :) This post makes me miss taking philosophy classes!

C.J. Brenner said...

Complacency leads to dessication. Indigence leads to stagnation. There is a difference.