The Light of the Oncoming Train Strengthens the Mind


Dear Self,

Your problem is that you think everything matters. The things that you do every day, the tasks that occupy your mind and draw on your energy—you think they are helping you make linear progress towards a significant destination.

And maybe you are making progress. But what if you’re just making linear progress on something that is ultimately inconsequential?

Your problem, in short, is that you have mistaken productivity for vision. You are a highly organized machine. You would perform very well in a factory. You would be very good at making someone else’s widgets. You would improve their efficiency and always deliver on time. Then you would collect a mediocre paycheck and be remembered as the person who was good at following instructions.

What you need, dear self, is a real vision. You need a life mission that goes beyond an adventure or even a quest. You need to be able to point to something and say, “Hey, I did that. I made that. It was mine.”

And sure, eventually everything will come to an end. The great pharaoh Ozymandias once proclaimed his wealth and architecture to a world that followed him. “Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair,” he said.

“Nothing beside remains,” the poet observed.

But maybe the problem is that Ozymandias didn’t make the right things! Maybe he shouldn’t have stored up treasure in earth, but instead worked toward creating something that would endure.

There are a lot of things you don’t need to worry about, self. It’s okay if you make mistakes, and it’s also okay if you fail. You should worry about how you’ll handle success, however success is measured, and you should worry about losing your true self along the way.

Like all of us, there’s something out there for you to discover, to create, and to become—and you must do everything you can to grab hold of it once it appears on the horizon.

Because there will always be distractions and temptations along the way, but in the end the greatest obstacle to achieving this potential lies within you. No one can take it from you unless you willingly hand it over.

There’s a saying, “The light of the oncoming train strengthens the mind.” It means that you gain clarity as you mature, and as you become more aware of both life and death. Because sometimes you have to wait for the train, and other times you have to cross the railroad tracks.

So that’s what you should think about as you work so hard. What is it all for?


Image: Will

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