If Not You, Then Someone One Else!
In a recent episode of Magic Words: Principles for Conjuring Personal & Professional Growth
I shared a story
attributed to Christopher Columbus. As the story goes, when Columbus sailed across the Atlantic to the “New World” there were those who criticized him, saying that anyone could have made the same voyage. To this, Columbus simply replied: “Yes, but I am the one who actually did!”
This story may or may not be true (as with many of the stories we’ve been told about Columbus
) but its sentiment points to a common truth: whenever someone does something significant there will always be someone to rain on the parade.
During my formative years as a magician the urban shaman David Blaine became a household name with his 1997 television special David Blaine: Street Magic
. The special did something unique by emphasizing the exaggerated audience reactions rather than focusing in the magic that Blaine performed. Before the show was even over I could already hear magicians the world over chastise
the 24-year old magician, accusing him of having no stage presence and only using standard magic props. The overwhelming consensus was that any other magician could have been the star of the show.
We could debate the validity of their arguments, or acknowledge how the ego
is always willing to work overtime, but this would ignore the fact that if something is possible then there will always be empowered people to bring it to life. Yes, many magicians could have made audiences scream, laugh, yell, and jump up and down on camera the way Blaine did, but in 1997 it happened to be David Blaine who actually did it. Multiple Discoveries
In science there’s an idea known as multiple discovery
, or simultaneous invention
. This is when multiple people discover or create the same or very similar things simultaneously and independently. Popular examples include:
- The formulation of calculus by Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz.
- The discovery of oxygen by Carl Wilhelm Scheele, Joseph Priestley, and Antoine Lavoisier.
- The creation of the theory of evolution by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace.
An incredible modern example of this is found in literature. The author Elizabeth Gilbert, in her book Big Magic
, tells the story of a book she started to write but never finished. Evelyn of the Amazon
, as it was tentatively titled, was to tell a harrowing tale:
From magicians lamenting over losing the chance to have their own television special, to an author’s story finding another writer, the lesson is clear: if something is possible then there will always be empowered people to bring it to life. So if you have an idea, a dream, or a goal, and if you don’t act on it, then surely someone else will!
Remember, the ego is always willing to work overtime, and if left unchecked our default reactions will lean towards jealousy, resentment, anger, or the like. It may even lead to an illusion of superiority, which essentially echoes the words of a famous song: