So it is 1am and I’m walking with Arjan Haring to his place in the suburbs of Utrecht on my last night in Holland. We’re chatting about the hackathon, psychologists we admire, and general troublemaking, while I try to draw a mental map in my head so I can make sure I get home. And as I’m walking the three miles back to my apartment after dropping him off, dodging around on the highway and trying not to die (because while the Netherlands believes in bike paths, it does not believe in sidewalks), it occurs to me: We are all united by these walks in the dark.
Think about someone you look up to and, while it is almost impossible to picture, I can guarantee you that they have had some crazy night walking back alone in some strange place, trying not to get lost. Presidents to parents, heroes and villains, I think we often underestimate the degree to which there are these fragile moments in our lives that we all experience in much the same way. I’m sure Barry Schwartz and Andrew Ward and Dan Ariely all stumbled home at some point.
And, of course, someone will probably think of us that way at some point. Or at least, I think that should be part of our goal: to live a life grand enough that someone else has trouble imagining us wandering home alone at night when we were young. Which means we all could have the sweet pleasure of surprising with the story of how we did. Maybe being great is just doing enough that someone is surprised we ever had the time to do absolutely nothing at all.