“Effort is important but knowing where to make an effort makes all the difference,” via warrenbuffetquote. This is akin to our car’s engine breaking down and we worry about fixing the tires. All of the effort in the world will mean nothing if it isn’t focused where it needs to be. The world is filled with distraction and will always test you when it feels like you are well on your way. There are things designed to tempt you and all of those things serve someone else’s bottom line. We settle for what is deemed “safe” and we turn over our purpose as long as we can afford the few trinkets we are told we need. The only safety that exists is what you create for yourself. You need to be your own safe harbor.
We can spend all the time in the world creating a safety net for others and not realize that we are getting pulled down trying to hold it up. It is far easier to teach people to save themselves instead of being the one to lift them up. We are a Marvel family and in The Avengers, Captain America and Tony Stark go into battle and Steve Rogers says, “You’ll never be the one to lay on the wire.” Tony Stark replies, “I think I would just cut the wire.” I know this is supposed to demonstrate Cap’s self-sacrificing nobility, but I think this is a perfect highlight of Tony’s genius. If you lay on the wire, yes you have the chance to help those with you, but if you die, then there is nothing else you can do. If you cut the wire, you may save infinitely more people and you get to fight another day. It’s a perfect example of go to the source of the problem and fix that—don’t band-aid the solution. If you constantly fix things at your own expense, you become the band-aid and the problem still exists.
I will add that there is a middle ground between martyrdom and selfishness. Invest your energy in yourself first and in taking care of yourself and learning yourself. Once you know who you are and what your purpose is, you will have laser focus on where to put your effort. We are designed to help each other but we can’t do that on an empty tank and we certainly can’t do that if we are fixated on getting the latest and greatest next thing. We need to focus on doing the latest and greatest next thing.
Simply put, we can work smarter not harder—and there is nothing selfish about that. There is nothing sneaky or smarmy about it either. Putting in concentrated effort to yield the most results is simply smart. If you want to make strides in this world, start with yourself, then find the best way to move forward based on that information. Being who you are is how you can help others and how you can make a difference not only in your life but in the world as well.