Driven: An Extraordinary Life

I’m convinced, as I grow older, that the way of life I saw as normal during my formative years is an increasingly unpopular lifestyle. The idea of being driven to do something profitable with your time, all of the time, is something of which most people have no concept. Logical, reasoned thought is a luxury many take no time to afford; in fact, it seems that most seek to live their entire life without entertaining a serious thought about anything.

Is such a life really a bane upon mankind? To answer this question, one must dig a little deeper into the meaning of that word, bane. Simply put, a bane is “a cause of great distress or annoyance.” It seems, therefore, that the answer to this question lies within one’s view of how life is supposed to be. If, as some posit, life is a Sunday stroll, to be enjoyed while sauntering along, then yes, one could assume that work is a burden, a cause of great distress, or an annoyance.

However, if life is hard, and yet good, then work is a necessary part of a good life. Far from being a repressive stricture, then, hard work is the required structure upon which an extraordinary life must be built.

This is a watershed concept, and a proper grasp of the place of work in a man’s life is a must if he would see his hopes and dreams realized and solidified into accomplishments.

Think of the titans of industry from yesteryear. Andrew Carnegie. Thomas Edison. J. P. Morgan. Cornelius Vanderbilt. John D. Rockefeller. Each of these men created massive companies and holdings–sometimes cutting entirely new industries from whole cloth–in pursuit of greatness. Though they were flawed human beings, much can be garnered from their struggles with  (and subsequent triumphs over) difficulties that would have forever broken men of lesser fortitude.

Guts. Intuition. Innovative solutions. These men had all these things in common. But they had one more thing in common, the one thing often overlooked; or, worse yet, vilified in today’s passivistic, neutrality-obsessed, mediocrity-crazed world. That one thing may be summed in one word:

DRIVE.

The turning point of any man’s life is when he sees for the first time, for himself, the fundamental truth that all extraordinary people understand: in this world, you either drive, or you are driven. 

The Externally Driven Man, a person who is driven (by external forces) constantly sees the world as against him, complains about the way his life is turning out, and accepts the status quo, believing it to be enough. He schleps into the mediocrity continuum, unaware that his burden of bitterness has him sliding relentlessly toward oblivion, namelessness, and a forgettable style of living.

External Combustion, the fire without, is useful in some regards, namely for destruction, and–in some cases–light. However, its uses are extremely limited because this type of power is much harder to control. Think of a forest fire rampaging through a stand of trees. Man must stand in awe of its power! This power, though, is of little use because of its unconstrained nature. So man, left to the external drive of his circumstances, is of little use to himself or anyone else.

By contrast, The Internally Driven Man, one who is driven  (by an internal fire) to see the world as a proving ground, a puzzle to be solved, and a problem to be logically worked, is one who leaps into the mediocrity continuum, dropping the bombshell that things do not have to continue as they have in times past. He sees and experiences the same difficulties as the EDM, but through an entirely different set of lenses. Much like donning a new set of prescription glasses, he sees the benefits to be had from the struggle, and rather than running from it, leaps to meet it head-on, seeking to overcome and learn from it.

This is not to say that the IDM is “spoiling for a fight,” as the colloquial phrase runs. Rather, he embraces the challenge of life, taking all comers, that he may understand and learn some concept to help him succeed in tomorrow’s battle.

Internal Combustion, the fire within; ah, therein lies the secret to true power. Think of the vehicle that carries you to work. A car, a bus, an airplane, a train; chances are, it is powered by some sort of internal combustion engine. Wherein does the secret of this powerful engine lie? Within. The force that powers the engine is, in fact, a controlled explosion, the more useful because its destructive nature is controlled, caged, harnessed, and channelled into a useful form. The piston exploding downward forces the connecting rod downward, which drives the crankshaft around, which turns the flywheel, which spins the driveshaft; and, at last, the power is mated to the wheels which drive the vehicle forward.

Now, take a moment to ask yourself: Am I an EDM, or an IDM? Do I let life drive me? Or am I driven from within to make a life I want to live?

There are ethical and moral constraints which must govern the Internally Driven Man, to be sure, but we will visit those in future posts. For now, a good, hard look at how one responds to difficulties, and nailing down whether one is internally or externally driven, is sufficient.

Until next time, stay strong, stay thoughtful, and stay driven.

Internally Driven, that is.

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3 thoughts on “Driven: An Extraordinary Life

  1. I agree with most of what you say but find your opening generalities a bit stretched, a trap that is easy to fall into. ‘Most have no concept of doing something profitable’? It’s my observation that ‘most people’ need to earn a living to eat and have a place to sleep, and thus are driven to doing something profitable. This takes a certain amount of logical, reasoned thought, though some are far better at it than others. Also, ‘most seek to live life without a serious thought’? The seeming frivolity of much of modern civilization and what I perceive as the fawning idolization of celebrity rather than appreciation of self (which is not a new thing) would lead one to think there is no serious thought. Still, it is there, like many trees hidden by the screen of the forest. (Am I generalizing?)

    I admire the industrialists of the late nineteenth century, including Carnegie, J.D. Rockefeller, and railroad man James J. Hill. I enjoyed reading The Myth of the Robber Barons by Burton W. Folsom Jr. and God’s Gold by John T. Flynn, a history of both Rockefeller and the discovery of oil in Pennsylvania. They were hard-minded and debatably ruthless, but they succeeded. Not unlike Steve Jobs perhaps. I’ve read that the industrialists mentioned and others which came from humble beginnings were the most successful, whereas 2nd and 3rd generation offspring, with at least some advantages, were not so.

    These days we seem to downplay the importance of self, sometimes promoting self-responsibility but more often disparaging self-interest. I say we need to take care of our selves, our health, and our welfare in order to be able to contribute to and take care of others. I’m a great supporter of self-care as long as it’s not at another’s expense. Sort of a golden rule.

    Ultimately I say you are doing the right thing. At the age of 70+ I look back on life and wish that I had been more purposeful and self-directed. It was no one else’s fault that I wasn’t.

    And look at how you’ve inspired me to a lengthy reply! The exchange of thoughts and ideas between humans. Communication! Now there is a novel idea.

    1. John, as always, your comments inspire thought and contemplation. I count you among the few who relentlessly challenge me to better myself. Thank you, sir!

      I acknowledge your superior years of experience. I am, as you stated, seeking to live my life with a relentless pursuit of better, refusing to settle, as so many my age seem to do.

      Perhaps I do generalize in my opening. I merely intended to convey that many seem to think that “paying the bills” equates to the penultimate success in adult life. Where, I ask, is the drive that inspired previous generations to “leave something to posterity,” as it were? Where are the men who seek to secure, not only their own financial stability, but the economic position of their descendants? Such men, I posit, are fewer and further between in the modern world. ‘Twould seem to me that most are only concerned with “give us this day our daily bread.”

      “It’s my observation that most people need to earn a living to eat and have a place to sleep, and thus are driven to doing something profitable.” Ah, yes, they are driven! Not driving themselves. Therein lies the rub. Yes, this does “[take] a certain amount of logical, reasoned thought…” but is it not true that 75% of what we do is HABIT? That’s 3/4 of our lives we can spend on ‘Autopilot!’

      Food for thought, and I thank you for the protein supplement.

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