At a conference I attended yesterday, writer Carrie Wilkerson shared a profound piece of wisdom. In discussing the hard work required for success, she said, “Don’t try to be superhuman. Be human and people will think you are super.”
She captured a profound truth. When we try to be something we are not, we fail. A superhuman is not human.
The secret, however, is that we can grow. We become our best when we are our best. In other words, we become superhuman when we are super at being human.
The Story of Zusya
Jewish tradition teaches this wisdom in a profound story. It is about a man named Zusya. He was successful, accomplished, and a pillar of his community. He was married, with children and grand children.
He was also a man of faith. He prayed and studied, gave to to the poor, and volunteered for his community.
As he grew older, however, he began to have fears. He would lay awake at night. He would shiver. He occasionally withdrew and seemed depressed.
One day he was sitting with children and grandchildren. He grew fearful. They asked him what was wrong.
He said to them, “I am growing older. I will not be in this world much longer. And I am afraid.”
The Fear of Not Being Ourself
His children and grandchildren responded, “But papa, you have lived an extraordinary life. You worked, you gave, you build a wonderful family.
You cared about our faith. You are the patriarch of our family. You followed the example of our ancestor Moses, who served God and the Jewish people.”
Zusya replied: “When I get to Heaven, they will not say, Zusya, why were not Moses? They’ll ask me, ‘Zusya, Why weren’t you Zusya.’”
The purpose of life is not to be someone we are not. It is to be the best at who we are. And that is our gift to the world.
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