Accomplished at 26

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So this week I turned 26. To gain a little perspective, I decided to look up what others have accomplished during their 26th year in this world. It is humbling to say the least.

  • Steve Jobs is fresh off of Apple becoming a public company. Job’s net worth grows from a few million to over $200 million.
  • Napoleon Bonaparte is named Commander-in-Chief of French Army. Napoleon wins a few major battles, the Battle of Lodi and the Battle of Arcole, that eventually leads to a victory over Italy.
  • Ken Kesey publishes his first novel, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
  • Eli Whitney invents the cotton gin, revolutionizing the economies of the United States and Britain.
  • Mark Zuckerberg gets a movie made about him and his creation of Facebook – The Social Network.
  • Eminem releases his breakthrough album, The Slim Shady LP.
  • Albert Einstein has his best year of his life, that he will later describe as his “Annus Mirabilis” – his miraculous year – Albert Einstein publishes four major theoretical papers in the prestigious German academic journal Annalen Der Physik. These four papers include a groundbreaking new interpretation of the photoelectric effect (for which Einstein will eventually win the Nobel Prize) as well as the first published exploration of the theory of Special Relativity and the first formulation of the famous equation e=mc2.
  • Soviet cosmonaut, Valentina Chereshkova, became the first woman to travel in space.
  • Jay Z releases his debut album, Reasonable Doubt, which was included in the Rolling Stone’s 500 greatest albums of all time.
  • John D. Rockefeller buys out his partners and becomes majority owner of Rockefeller and Andrews, Cleveland’s largest refinery.

It’s easy to look at these examples and think to yourself – well not everyone is Steve Jobs or Jay Z. Yes, that’s true. But it is important to remember these people were all just getting started on their own personal journey. At one point in time, they were the same age as I am right now. We know we have some time ahead of us, but just how long is a mystery. So the most important step to make towards a fulfilled, accomplished life is to focus on what is in front of you right now. It is easy to fall into the trap of wanting to be successful, seeking happiness, or striving to be famous. But we need to be smarter than that. Take the words of Viktor Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning, psychiatrist, and Holocaust survivor,

“Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself.

Success and happiness must ensue. It cannot be pursued.

So you must stay on your grind. Keep your head down. Remove distractions. Push forward a little bit daily. Fight your way through the obstacles. Think bigger than yourself.

Only then will you come closer to the life you seek. Maybe it will start to show its face at 26. Maybe in a few years. Maybe never.

But you must try.