Lessons from ‘Die Hard’

In “Die Hard,” John McClane flys all the way from New York to California just to see his wife, and some German guy up and kidnaps her. Did you think that just because it was Christmas, John McClane suddenly wasn’t going to do his job of wrecking some terrorists? Not a chance, buster.

McClane wasn’t done until he straight-up threw that German out a window and taught Reggie VelJohnson that not even accidentally shooting a child could keep Carl (of “Family Matters” fame) from finding the joy in shooting people once again.

John McClane could single-handedly take out terrorist cell, and I can’t even top the land speed of a sea manatee.

It must be nice to live life like John McClane, punching and exploding terrorists until you’ve accomplished even more than you initially set out to do.

I will never be like John McClane.

This may seem rather obvious to anyone with half a brain, but in my heart of hearts, I believed that that the only thing stopping me from being a John McClane was laziness and a lack of motivation.

It never really occurred to me that I simply couldn’t ever be as awesome as John McClane, and I know that I’m not alone in my wild miscalculations of my own latent abilities.

The truth is that most of the Earth is a lot like me. We have not lived up to our lofty image of ourselves, but we have convinced ourselves that we are important, because we had the potential to be amazing.

Only since I have realized that our potential means nothing unless we actually work towards achieving it, have I actually gone on to make something of my life.

If you believe the only reason you’re not a famous artist, writer or astronaut is because you simply never applied yourself, welcome to being just like the rest of us, buddy.

If you had the brains but not the heart or the energy, did you really ever have the potential to achieve your dreams?

Your potential doesn’t matter. Trust me: That’s a good thing.

If you base your success on what could happen, no matter how unlikely, you lose the ability to appreciate how amazing the little accomplishments we achieve actually are.

That obvious gulf between what we convince ourselves we are capable of and what we can actually do works to make us inert. We either live our whole lives not even trying but assuring ourselves we could be great, or we assume we actually are great and take on challenges we have no business facing.

Either way, what progress does that lead to?

Now that I’m finally free of my outrageous sense of self-worth, I am finally proud of all the cool things that I actually can do.

I may never stop a German terrorist cell from kidnapping my wife, but after a lot of hard work, I got a job at a newspaper.

Isn’t that worth something?

Even if I frequently misspell the word “of,” at least I’ve done something more with my life than reminiscing on what I could have done.

Don’t let your delusions of self-worth trick you into never becoming worth anything.

 

Reach the columnist at Jacob.Evans@asu.edu or follow him at @JacobEvansSP

 

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