by Alex Ihama
If we were to write about Tragedy of Greatness in recent times alone, not even a book of a million volumes would contain it. And only yesterday, Sunday, July, 26, 2015, Bobbi Kristina Brown, the only daughter of two music legends, Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown, passed away unfortunately at the young age of 22.
What made this even more tragic was the tragic way her mother also passed away about three years ago, which is compounded by the never-ending saga of her father’s lifestyle. In only 22 years, Bobbi had been exposed to a level of popularity and prosperity that some people would not experience in a hundred years.
But did it have to end this way, though? Did she have to die this way? Did her life have to be so complicated and full of scandals? Is there an alternative lifestyle for someone who was born into the pop culture of “sex, drug and rock and roll”?
Tragedy of Greatness is when things fall apart tragically, unfortunately, unnecessarily, and certainly avoidably. What a sad story, an unfortunate passing of a young woman with tremendous potential and opportunities.
Tragedy of Greatness is when you allow whatever you are blessed with to become an unnecessary burden to you and those around you; when irresponsibility makes you become irresponsive to the divine calling to “fight the good fight, finish the race and keep the faith”, as Apostle Paul once said. This is the Tragedy of Greatness.
Since the media often cover tragedies more than honourable acts of greatness, Tragedy of Greatness seems to be increasing more than the number of those achieving greatness. Just refer to the list published by Wikipedia of the drug-related deaths of famous people and you’ll be flabbergasted by the growing pace.
What is the essence of achieving greatness if only to have it shorten your life span? How come series of achievements sometimes give birth to series of unfortunate events? Even though money, fame and power are not the measure of greatness, why are the lives of some people who are blessed with them get ruined by them (money, fame and power)?
Simply put, it is due to the lack of a definitiveness of purpose; and most tragedies in the world can be attributed to this same reason. Tragedy of Greatness is what occurs when we allow the pursuit of purpose to be derailed by the prosperity and popularity that comes with greatness.
If you disrespect wisdom, discard knowledge, and disregard understanding, sooner or later, you will eventually pay the ultimate price for arrogance. It may be fine to break natural laws for the sake of “sex, drug and rock and roll”, but the fine of life for doing of is hefty with no recourse. This is Tragedy of Greatness.
Every achievement is meant to inspire even greater achievements; not to instigate the downfall of the achiever. Our upbringing is meant to bring us up, and not to bring us down. This is why it is called upbringing and not down-bringing.
Purpose may have initiated the journey en route to greatness, but it is only a set of unwavering principles that would enable an achiever to effectively manage the popularity and prosperity that usually comes with greatness.
As written in our book, Welcome to Greatness, “Greatness is not the shallow perception that measures people based on fame, riches and power, but rather on love, humility and servitude. It has nothing to do with riches, but rather what you do with it. It has nothing to do with fame but rather how you manage it. It has nothing to do with power, but rather how you are using it to make the world a better place. You can be very rich, famous and powerful and still be great in love, humility and servitude. The contrary, however, is the Tragedy of Greatness”.
Tragedy of Greatness is when you allow your purpose in life to create chronic pain for you and those around you. This happens every day, for some people ignorantly allow their profession, position, perks, popularity, prosperity, privileges, passion, purpose, power, prestige, politics, profits and policies to stand in the way of what Apostle Paul once classified as the Fruits of the Holy Spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, and Faithfulness.
Greatness is a journey, and not a destination; and obviously, not everyone who begins well, ends well. Like every journey requires, you have to be prepared for the potholes and roadblocks, for turbulence, traffic and unfavourable weather.
While unexpected accidents and incidents may be along the way too, being knowledgeable about the challenges and pitfalls of others is wisdom. As Tony Robbins is fond of saying, “Success leaves clues”; and so does tragedies as well.
The moment you decide to pursue your purpose with unquenchable passion, ensure that your desire does not supersede the knowledge you have about your purpose. This is why you need a set of unwavering principles.
Those that are wise amongst those who inherited wealth often seek wisdom from wealthy people who generated their own wealth. This is maturity – to seek advice through coaching, consulting, training and mentoring. No one knows it all!!
You may have money, fame and power thrust upon you, but it is not greatness without a definitiveness of purpose. If your pursuit of purpose is unfortunately derailed before you pass on, it is the Tragedy of Greatness.
To be born with tremendous opportunities and potential does not automatically translate to greatness. Neither is a huge network and net worth. While all these may give up an edge over others, it is your convictions and character that will tell.
Don’t be fooled by the popular saying that, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them”. Except you think greatness is about money, fame and power, this quote is incorrect and inconsistent with the eventual outcome of those who were “born great”.
On the contrary, everyone is born with the potential for greatness, including you! Some summon the courage to reveal their greatness during their lifetime, while others unfortunately pass away without ever revealing who they are within. No one has greatness thrust upon them, for not everyone who is born rich and famous end up living a life of purpose; which is what greatness is all about.
Here is an excerpt from our book, Welcome to Greatness:
“For many years, I was in pursuit of things that only brought me temporal satisfaction; things that made me look ‘successful’ on the outside but left me completely empty on the inside. I was in the pursuit of what I saw other people pursuing–wealth, fame and power. These were my driving forces, for I thought, like many people still sadly think today, that attaining these things would eventually give me peace and tranquility.
Designer clothing, luxury vehicles and prominent ‘friends’ were my motivators, but yet, even after acquiring so much, I still did not have the inner peace and eternal joy which I ignorantly thought would be derived from material possessions. These things satisfied my tumultuous ego but not my hungry spirit. They made people sing my praises but yet pained my conscience at the same time”.
And now, after decades of being sober from the undue societal pressure to be rich and famous, pressure that made me attempt suicide multiple times along the way, I am convinced that the exciting journey en route to greatness can only be sustained by strong convictions and character, and not by popular polls and perceptions.
The Wikipedia list of the drug-related deaths of famous people would not be that long if people would only “count the cost” before embarking on the journey en route to greatness, as advised by Jesus Christ. This is why King Solomon once said, “Desire without knowledge is not good”.
We pray that Almighty God will comfort the friends and families of Bobbi Kristina Brown. We also pray for those who have been impacted by Tragedy of Greatness over the years, as well as the friends and families of those who are victims of the undue societal pressure to be rich and famous.
May God help us all, through Jesus Christ; amen.
Alex Ihama is a global leadership and management consultant; business strategist; executive coach; inspirational speaker; trainer; and author. Connect with him on LinkedIn, where this article was first published.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.