For the last two days, I’ve been thinking generally about endeavors and stimulation that are fundamentally challenging. A simple question: How many people engage intellectual1 challenge? My thought is: not many.
By “challenge,” I mean an endeavor that requires a new way of thinking or development of a new tool or paradigm to solve a problem. An endeavor where all of my currently available methods are insufficient and innovation is essential, where something might overwhelm or confound were it not for perseverance.
It can be as simple as learning a new topic or pioneering something noteworthy.
I don’t intend to be overly critical of anyone nor elevate ambition to an unhealthy place. Achievement never defines one’s worth. But there’s no denying that stretching our various mental and spiritual faculties leads us to growth. Combined with the number of critical, unsolved problems facing humankind, the reality of responsibility arises.
Few people work to solve problems that matter, leaving many simply concerned with a happy existence for their family and perhaps a paycheck — which I can’t necessarily fault. But consider the degree of dormant potential in our country that will never be realized due to laziness, apathy, or distraction by the status quo.
The low hanging fruit includes the staggering number of man hours wasted worldwide annually on television and gaming. But beyond that, consider those atrophying in mundane jobs (which denigrate creativity).
Should we accept this, or call each out of our intellectual callous?
So I offer a few questions:
- When did you last acquire a new topic of understanding that was completely foreign to you?
- What was the last problem you solved requiring intellectual rigor and not just trial and error?
- What was the last intellectual curiosity that you genuinely pursued?
- What systemic problem persists at the cost of my passivity?
For the record, I’m not suggesting everyone get a PhD, simply asking you to consider the challenge of excellence at something. The people in your life and beyond need the full capacity of your creative potential. Time to engage.
equally applicable to social, creative, physical, and spiritual challenges. ↩