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Place Yourself in the Presence of Greatness

Just being in the same room as greatness inspires you to new levels of the possible.
Recently on my trip to Paris I (of course) visited the Louvre and found myself for the first time in the same room with the Mona Lisa. Now, for many people this is a moving experience, but the man who painted that piece of work is the man I was named after.

It was a remarkable moment for me.

It was as if the roomful of tourists faded away until there was nothing but me and Mona. In some ways it’s not that different a painting — there were more realistic works in the same room — but as I stared at her face I became electrified. The more I realized this was one of the most famous faces in history, the more I looked into her knowing eyes … the more I felt moved by her greatness.

I wanted to rush out and make something. To create, at that moment.
And that’s just one tiny example of how being in the presence of greatness can transform us.

‘As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – that is the myth of the atomic age – as in being able to remake ourselves.’ ~Gandhi

How to Find Greatness

Sometimes if you write to a great author living nearby, she’ll agree to have coffee with you. I went to a book reading/signing by one of my favorite sci-fi authors, William Gibson last year and felt inspired.
I go to the public library … and am surrounded by Tolstoy, Shakespeare, Joyce, Fitzgerald, Emma Goldman, Bertrand Russell, Cervantes, Kant, Plato … an endless list of greats. A personal panel of greatness, urging me to create, urging me to be better.

I read the columns of Paul Krugman (the most important blogger in America), the musings of Scott Adams, The Last Post by Derek K. Miller. On the web, you can find greatness in the oddest corners.
I watch championship games in sports (including watching the Giants live in the World Series!), where the best athletes in the world will lift themselves up to accomplish feats of greatness.

I look for it in the people around me — someone creating an amazing experience using tea, someone helping others find their dreams, my wife quitting her day job to homeschool our kids, people giving up cars in favor of bikes … greatness is all around us!

You learn to see greatness when you happen upon it, and that is a true gift. It’s not just in famous people, but in commoners like us. If you learn to look. If you recognize it for greatness, and then use it to move you.
And soon, you use the greatness all around you to reach for greatness yourself.

And eventually, you realize that you’re always in the presence of greatness … because the greatness is within you.
And learning that? That’s the greatest gift ever.

About the Author: Leo Babauta is the author of The Power of Less and the creator and blogger at Zen Habits, a Top 100 blog with 130,000 subscribers — one of the top productivity and simplicity blogs on the Internet. It was recently named one of the Top 25 blogs by TIME magazine.

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About Leo Babauta

We are publishing some of the better blog posts from Leo Babauta. Leo has a very popular blog called Zen Habits, which is very worth visiting and reading if you get a chance. Leo has done an amazing thing which is to allow any of his posts to be used by anyone else. So we have chosen to share some of the ones that we really enjoyed. Please visit his blog to read more of his wonderful posts. Here is his brief bio from his own website. My name is Leo Babauta, I’m married with six kids, I live on Guam, I’m a writer and a runner and a vegetarian and I love writing Zen Habits. Zen Habits covers: achieving goals, productivity, being organized, GTD, motivation, eliminating debt, saving, getting a flat stomach, eating healthy, simplifying, living frugal, parenting, happiness, and successfully implementing good habits.

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One comment

  1. I love this article. If I have time, I love nothing more than visiting The National Portrait Gallery for an instant injection of inspiration. Thank you Leo. Have a wonderful day.

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