Ever wonder what makes a great athlete? It varies from sport to sport and although most would point to say, height, given the example of an NBA player, it's actually a combination of almost limitless genetic and environmental factors that determine success.
If it were simply things like height or fast twitch muscle fibers at play, we'd be able to easily predict who would be successful; ask any professional scout and they'll tell you how far from the truth it is. Being 6'10 is a good indicator, but we cannot see the myriad underlying factors that determine quality of performance or success under the bright lights of the NBA.
Data analysis, AI, and other tools will likely one day bring us to a place where we can have virtual predictive powers in terms of who will make it, and who won't. The accuracy of scouting increases every year, as does the range of data available and the ability to analyze it. The Lebron James' of the world may start to be discovered in preschool, not high school.
So try and consider that life is, essentially, a game. The biggest one of all. How do you know, that in the analogy of pro basketball, you're not the equivalent of a person who is 5'5 AND lacks the subtle (and poorly understood) genetic and environmental gifts that can take someone to the NBA?
You may have been born into a combination of genes and environment that are poorly suited to the world we're living in. You may have been dealt the worst possible hand in poker while your peers got a straight flush. And I'm not talking about obvious things like being born with a disease or having abusive parents. I'm talking about the subtle, underlying, and again, poorly understood factors that make a person "successful" or not. It's a mystery combination we have yet to unlock.
So where am I going with all this?
I am desperately, frantically, begging people of all walks of life and levels of status to wake up- you are not Lebron James, and you're NEVER going to be. Despite all the years of shit put into your head by parents, media and marketing.
I am desperate because I see and talk every day with people being absolutely CRUSHED by the pressure to "succeed". To be "the best". Who have no "limiting beliefs" or "believe in their limitless potential". I am desperate because of rising suicide rates and an epidemic of prescription drug abuse. Pressure to succeed is killing people. It is a deadly game of musical chairs in which there is guaranteed to be far more losers than winners.
I am begging you to let go of outcome. I am begging you to recognize that you may be 5'5 and trying to make the NBA of success in life and seeing that as your only path to happiness and meaning. The only true path to happiness is to achieve it WITHOUT success. Look inside yourself for meaning, not outside.
But many of those who have reached the top often want to give more credit to hard work than is due. Few are willing to recognize that they simply may be "better" at life or are basically genetic trust fund babies. Period. Regardless of what environment they may have overcome; I know what you're thinking- "what about person X who has done more with less than me!?". I am trying to make the point that we cannot yet see all the factors that influence outcome. Again, with the basketball analogy, you may be 5'5 comparing yourself to someone who is 6'10. We just can't see it yet.
Long story short- no matter where you are in life, stop beating yourself up. Seek happiness in other ways.
With one MAJOR caveat. You have to do your best. You have to absolutely max out your potential. You might never be Lebron James, but with every ounce of power you have, maybe you can ride the bench or have a successful college career, and have the time of your life doing so. It's not a lack of success that should concern you, only a lack of effort. Whatever you want out of life, give it your all. Don't forget that the pursuit of happiness is just as noble as the pursuit of success. Look yourself in the mirror every day and ask yourself if you're squeezing everything out of life you can. Let go of outcome and have fun.
For me of the final stages of lifelong depression lifting was letting go of the idea that I needed to achieve some sort of "success" to be happy. It is an endless mountain range in which you will simply climb one, assured happiness awaits at the top, only to find nothing and assume it rests on the next highest peak.
I recognized that certain genetic and environmental factors all but assured I would never be some sort of captain of industry or a famous intellectual. I realized that all I had to do to be happy was to be myself, and try to get the most out of a short life, every day. The outcome doesn't matter. And funny enough, once you're happy and at peace, the success your ego so craves ends up finding you anyways.
Years ago, I used to walk by a group of guys playing basketball at the park all the time, and all I ever noticed was how terrible they were. It seemed you could watch them for five minutes and not see a single basket. Looking back, thinking of them running around laughing at each other, all I remember is how happy they looked.