Success is hard. It’s not just hard to attain, but it’s equally hard to endure. Have you ever wanted to do something so badly, and you worked hard until you finally did it? It might be finishing a college degree, getting a prestigious job, paying off a mortgage, winning a sports competition, or successfully raising children to adulthood. Whatever it is, it wasn’t easy to do. It’s breathtaking to reach a height few have dreamed of, but it’s also frightening for two reasons: you have so far to fall, and there’s no one to look up to.
I no longer envy filmmakers or actors whose films become runaway blockbusters because from then on, they are marked for destruction. From then on, they have to live up to lofty expectations, and there’s little chance that they will. Even if they do for a long time, someday their stars will fade. They won’t be as good-looking or talented as they used to be, and they’ll have to suffer public scrutiny on a scale I shudder to contemplate. That is the fate of most people who attain a high level of distinction in many areas of life. Just because they are able to come up with a creative idea or perform a task better than anyone else doesn’t mean they will be able to keep coming up with more ideas or remain the best when a superior challenger comes along. Once you reach the top, it can seem like it’s all downhill from there.
Let’s look at three movies that deal with the loneliness at the top.
Almost every day of her life, Rapunzel has lived in a tower and every year on her birthday she has seen lanterns light up the sky in a beautiful display. She has no idea that they are meant for her and that she is actually a princess. She just knows that what she wants more than anything is to see those lanterns up close. When the moment that her dream is going to come true is just minutes away, she suddenly feels troubled because she might either be underwhelmed or have it be everything she ever wanted – and then what? After such an amazing event, everything else in life would be a letdown unless she’s able to find a new, equally ambitious dream to live for.
Thankfully, she does find a new dream when she realizes that she loves Flynn. He becomes her dream, and they live happily ever after.
Chariots of Fire
Another film that portrays the pensive feeling before doing something great is Chariots of Fire. All his life, Harold Abrahams has been chasing greatness. He wants nothing more than to be acknowledged as the best runner in his particular event. His chance at glory comes in the 1924 Olympic Games when he is pitted against the best athletes in the world. He has trained hard for years to reach the peak of his athletic ability, and now he fears that winning won’t give him what he’s been seeking all along. That’s what he confesses to his best friend while his trainer listens in.
Despite Harold’s misgivings, he wins the 100-meter race and smiles as the crowd cheers for his triumph. But as soon as he is out of the spotlight, the smile vanishes. He doesn’t want to go to a big celebration or receive accolades from adoring fans, even though he has earned them. He wants to be left alone in the company of his trainer who made his victory possible. Winning is a lonely experience, and it must be faced with courage. This is the serious look of a champion.
His trainer is absolutely right. Now that Harold has competitive running out of his system, he can finally get on with life by going home and marrying the woman he loves. Notice a pattern? It seems that no matter what we accomplish professionally, the most important things we do will always be personal and private.
After playing a decisive role in helping the Allied powers win World War II, General George S. Patton is unceremoniously stripped of his high position in the U.S. Army. He has achieved everything he wanted to do and has emerged victorious in one of the most important conflicts in modern history. But rather than basking in glory, he goes on a solitary walk and remembers how Roman conquerors were both celebrated and cautioned.
“All glory is fleeting.” We might be on top of the world one day and hit rock bottom the next. Sadly, that’s what happened to General Patton. He was paralyzed in a car accident and died days later right before the end of 1945. There’s no guarantee of peace and prosperity. Our good health and good fortune could come to an end at any time. That’s why we must not delay doing what good we can while we still have a chance.
I find it best not to envy others’ success. They earned it, and it’s their responsibility. I admire people who are able to endure success well and not let the loneliness they feel make them lose sight of what’s most important. When you have no one to look up to and find yourself surrounded by peers or inferiors, it’s easy to let that go to your head. To counter that, make sure you always have a worthwhile dream, get on with life, and remember that all earthly glory is fleeting.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
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