(3) The Leader in a Race Runs Alone
Most people are mediocre. And average is attractive to many people. And when you are “average” you are usually surrounded by other similar people.
I have noticed this: the bigger the goal and the higher the standard, the fewer people there are that have similar goals.
When you dream big, when you are aiming high, and when you want to achieve more than what seems normal…
You are often by yourself.
I have repeatedly noticed a feeling that I get when I am really starting to move towards my vision about where I want to go. The feeling comes about when I am working hard and striving to do something that I have never done before. I only notice this feeling in short, interstitial moments when I have a few seconds to think before being interrupted.
That feeling is loneliness.
I don’t mean the type of loneliness that occurs when no one is around you ‒ when you have no followers or companions on a journey.
I am referring to the loneliness of creating something so new and different that it is difficult (though not impossible) to find people who are thinking about the same things that you are thinking about.
Here is how I think about it:
The leader in a race runs alone.
As a warning, it is easy to think that something is wrong or off when you are alone. It is also easy to become wrapped up in how no one else is around. Many times loneliness can lead to other problems. Mental health may be at stake. Loneliness could be a symptom or an early indicator of something else.
Please be careful.
But for me, I know a certain type of loneliness is a true indicator that I am on a path that others are not on. That feeling reminds me that I am willing to stand on my own ideas and think for myself.
Here’s an example.
Years ago while in law school, I had the opportunity to participate in a moot court competition. Half of the competitors had a similar topic to mine. But not a single person agreed with my take on the arguments.
And trust me, I tried to convince people.
Even the assigned professor thought my ideas were a little outside the norm. Fortunately, he encouraged to keep going even if no one agreed with me ‒ even him.
So I kept pushing forward. And I remember so clearly a feeling of loneliness. It was late at night. My wife was asleep. I was up late studying: reading cases and planning responses to different positions. No one else I knew was going to argue the way I was going to.
I was lonely.
I had ideas. I had a vision of what I thought might work. I was not sure if I was right but I was going to bet on myself. I was running a race and I did not see anyone in front of me.
Cutting to the end, no one else could match the positions that I took.
The competition ended. And I won. My team won and I won best advocate overall.
I can recall this feeling quite a few times, with each time a precursor to something great.
And you know what? I am feeling it right now.