“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” — T. S. Eliot
— — —
Ezra Taft Benson was a religious leader who simultaneously served as the 15th United States Secretary of Agriculture during both presidential terms of Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Benson grew up on a farm in Whitney, Idaho. One day in 1915 at the age of 16, he was hired by a neighboring farmer to thin a field of sugar beets. When he got to his field of labor, he squinted as he scanned the field. It was just dawn and still too dark to see the whole horizon.
But that’s what farmers did.
They woke up before sunrise and got to work.
They didn’t complain about the pain of waking up. They just did it. Because the law of the harvest is always in effect. And the fields need to be tended to.
Most people couldn’t be farmers in today’s society. We’ve grown far too soft. We don’t know what it really takes to do a full-days’ work.
As Ezra scanned the fields that lay before him, and with his short-handled hoe in hand, a peculiar thought popped into his head.
This thought somewhat surprised him actually. But it fixed itself deep into his mind and shifted his attitude and behavior dramatically.
“If I work as hard as I can, I wonder how much I can do in a day?”
That was the thought.
He became insanely curious about that one thing — how much could I possibly do?
A variation of this thought could be — how far could I possibly go?
With that curious intention in his mind and heart, he began working. The sun was just starting to peer over the Idaho mountain peaks. The air was crisp, but soon to become blazing hot.
Mid-way through the day and with sweat dripping down his face, he kept thinning the beet field.
He only stopped to drink and eat for brief moments, and continued to work continuously until the sun set beyond the mountains on the opposite horizon.
He was so busy working that he hadn’t actually realized how much it did. Only after he stopped did he look back and realize, with a bit of alarm, that he had thinned a full acre of beets in a single day! This was an unheard of amount of work for a single person — let alone a 16 year old kid.
When the farmer who hired Ezra saw the boy’s work, he was shocked.
“How did you do this?” the man questioned.
Ezra’s eyes were piercing, despite the fact that he looked physically exhausted. There was a confidence and stature that wasn’t there earlier that morning.
“I just wanted to see how far I could go,” Ezra responded.
The farmer dropped two silver dollars and two five-dollar gold coins into Ezra’s hand. Ezra could hardly believe it. That was the most money he had ever held in his hand. This was a small fortune. His mind began to spin. He soul began to float heavenward with confidence and excitement.
As he walked the few miles back to his farm, his mind danced. His heartbeat was quick. He felt like the richest man in the world. And he was — because he now had a confidence and level of self-trust that you can’t actually buy with money.
He had just watched himself push his own boundaries. His worldview of himself was ripped wide open and he stepped out of the limiting confines of his previous self-definition.
His curiosity led him to greater confidence and greater rewards than his imagination initially conjured.
Most people are curious about how little they can do
Most people are curious about the exact opposite of what Ezra was curious about.
Most people are interested in how little they can do.
Joe Polish, the founder of Genius Network, has a great saying. He says that, “Winners find ways to be winners and losers find ways to be losers.”
It actually takes a lot of ingenuity and creativity to be unsuccessful.
Polish describes his time as a drug-addict, and about how much effort and thought it took to keep up his life. He was incredibly resourceful to get his drugs and to hide his stories and deceptions from family, friends, and others.
It takes a lot of work and curiosity to be a failure.
It takes a lot of energy to continually convince yourself that you’re not worth a damn.
It takes a lot of hard work and energy to pretend you’re working at work when in reality, you’re doing anything but work.
What if you flipped the script on yourself?
What if, rather that seeing how small you could be, you saw how great you could be?
This has nothing to do with ego.
This has nothing to do with arrogance and pride.
Rather, this has everything to do with curiosity and truth.
— — —
Who are you to play small?
Who are you to not be insatiably curious about what is possible?
Who are you to not be an incredible example to those around you?
Who are you to not live every single day — especially today — to see how far you can go?
Who are you to not push the boundaries of not only your own life, but of the entire human race?
Why aren’t you showing us what’s freaking possible?
Why aren’t you shocking and surprising everyone with how much you’re accomplishing and how beautiful you’re living?
Where is your creativity and curiosity?
Where is your imagination?
What if you let your imagination for what could be drive you to see how far you could go?
What if you got so absorbed in the possibilities that you stopped keeping track of time?
What if you stopped paying attention to all of the noise and distractions around you, because your life was so full of beautiful people and meaningful work?
What if you were continuously humbled by the size of your dreams and ambitions?
— — —
Who are you to be brilliant?
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
— Marianne Williamson
Who are you to be brilliant?
Who are you to think bigger for yourself?
Who are you to get wildly curious about the possibilities?
Like Ezra, my question for you is this: How far will you go?
How much could you possibly do?
In 3 months from now when 2019 comes rolling by, and when everyone is setting the New Years’ Resolutions — which will quickly evaporate as they adapt back into their addictions and environment — where will you be?
When 2020 comes rolling around, where will you be?
How steep is your growth curve?
How far is your trajectory?
Is it light-years beyond anything you’ve ever seen anyone do?
This is your time.
How far will you go?
How much could you do?
That’s the question you should be asking yourself.
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This article first appeared on Medium.