He walks In the Common Path walks with company; but he who walks in the Uncommon Path walks alone but leaves behind a trail
– GEORGE ESSIEN
Many people die as copies. To die a copy is to die a slave. Masters are original. Personal mastery is stamping your originality on earth. The copy adapts himself to the world. The original adopts the world to himself.
Imitation is limitation.
Julius Charles Hare once said, ‘ Be what you are. This the first step towards becoming better than you are’. Look at how Samuel Johnson puts it. He says, ‘There lurks , perhaps in every human heart a desire of distinction, which inclines every man first to hope and then to believe , that Nature has given him something peculiar to himself’. How so true.
Personal mastery is being a first rate version of yourself instead of a second-rate version of somebody else. Listen to legendary playwright, William Shakespeare, speak, ‘God has given you one face, and you make yourself another’. That quote reminds me of this story. A certain woman was told she would die from cancer before she would be 40, and she was few months away. She prayed to God on her sick bed and God told her, ‘I will add 32 more years to your life’. His voice was so clear and distinct to her. She got better and healed from the cancer to the amazement of the doctors. A few months later, she was back to the hospital. This time to do a facial plastic surgery. She was now on a beauty therapy. The day she was released from the surgery to go home with a new face, she crossed the road and was hit by an ambulance. She died. When she got up to meet God, the story says, she asked God, ‘But I thought you said you will add 32 more years to my life’. God replied, ‘I am sorry dear. I didn’t recognize you.’
Personal mastery is being you, and having no apologies for being that. Andre Gide once said, ‘It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for something you are not’
Dare to be different. Dare to be ‘you’. The reward for conformity is that everyone likes you except yourself. There is just one life for each of us, our own. Live it. It takes a lot of courage to grow up and become who you really are.
Remember this: Not all those who wander are lost. One who walks in another man’s track leaves no footprint. Here is how R.W. Emerson, who was said to be the wisest man in America in his time, puts it. He says, ‘Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is no path and leave behind a trail.
You are a master when you have your own opinion. You are a master when you make your choices and accept the consequences. You are a master when you stand out from the crowd rather than blend in. Anatole France once said, ‘If 50 million people say a foolish thing. It is still foolish thing’. George Patton said, ‘If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.’ I love how Mark Twain , essayist, critic and philosopher, put it. He said, ‘Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect’
The opposite of courage is not cowardice, it is conformity. Fashion is what you adopt when you don’t know who you are. Most people prefer belief to the exercise of judgment.
‘When a true genius appears’, said Jonathan Swift, ‘you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all the confederacy’. True. Very true. To be a genuine original requires a great deal of courage strength and belief in oneself. It is not easy to chart new territory, to cross new frontiers or to introduce subtle shadings to an established colour.
Let me close this chapter with words of R. W. Emerson. He says, ‘ Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and to follow it to the end, require some courage which a soldier needs. Peace has its victories , but it takes brave men to win them.