A quote by actor Philip Seymour Hoffman in the New York Times Magazine caught my eye today:
“For me, acting is torturous, and it’s torturous because you know it’s a beautiful thing. I was young once, and I said, That’s beautiful and I want that. Wanting it is easy, but trying to be great – well, that’s absolutely torturous.”
I believe Hoffman, but I also believe that trying to be great at anything meaningful is torturous. Being great means enduring hard work and personal sacrifice. It means obsessing over every aspect that is not great. It means embracing and confronting failure, so you can nudge your way, inch by inch, toward your vision of great. And it’s often the great who live with the greatest torture of all: the perpetual itch to be great coupled with the tendency to always set the bar higher. In other words, greatness is not something captured permanently. It’s only something you can constantly pursue.Â And in many cases, the great aren’t even recognized until after they die.
Being great is torturous and complicated.