My son has many different interests though most of them center on sports. Recently, he stumbled upon the lost art of long boarding. He actually tried it after noticing a friend riding his long board. My son timidly stepped on the board and started to ride it. Within minutes, he was hooked. Now, he spends most of his waking time (and some of his homework time) riding, studying, learning, researching, adjusting and repairing long boards! His conversation centers around the newest long board, the most recent trick on the long board, or the difficulty that he might be experiencing with it. He is absolutely obsessed with long boards!
As I was driving home one day, I saw him riding his new long board. He was fantastic! He was riding quickly, smoothly, and confidently. He was doing tricks. He was pushing his body and board to the limits. And he looked happy. Truly happy. He was definitely “in the zone.” To realize that it had only been a month since he first stepped on a long board, I was amazed. How could he become so good in a month?!
Then I realized it . The long board was not just a fun activity for him. It was a magnificent obsession.
He was living the dream. He was living his dream of speed, finesse, and agility. And it showed in his ability, on his face, and in his feeling.
My son is a teenager. So, he will have lots of magnificent obsessions. Hopefully, one will stick and he will know what he wants to do with his life. And he’ll do it brilliantly and joyfully like so many others have.
- Steve Jobs
- Bill Gates
- Maya Angelou
- George Orwell
- LeBron James
- Steven Spielberg
- And many others
What is a magnificent obsession?
I first heard this term used when I read the book, How to think Like a Millionaire by Charles-Albert Poissant. (By the way, I highly recommend reading this book, which you will find in the Inspired Store.) There was a chapter about Walt Disney and how he created the Disney empire.
Walt Disney has recently become a controversial character but I won’t touch that issue. I want to focus on how he dreamed of being a cartoonist/animator. In fact, he was actually fired early in his career for failing to produce new ideas! But this redundancy opened the way for him to start making his own cartoons, beginning with (can you guess?) Mickey Mouse in 1928. His first full-length feature cartoon was Steamboat Willy, and it made Walt Disney into a household name.
But he didn’t stop there. He dreamed of theme park where his characters could come to life, a family park that would thrill and entertain parents and children alike. It was an uphill battle and he met lots of skeptics in the process. What kept him working to make Disneyland into a reality?
He said that he had a magnificent obsession!
I think that explains the term more than any dry definition. And it also places it into context.
A magnificent obsession is bigger than you. It drives you. It thrills and frustrates you. It never leaves you. In fact, it is a part of you.
My magnificent obsession is writing. It is something that I do every day. I love it and hate it. But I cannot NOT do it. I must do it.
I didn’t always know that writing is my magnificent obsession. Actually, I probably did but denied it for many years. I wondered how I could compete with other more accomplished, educated, or even smarter writers. I wondered if I could make a living as a writer. I questioned my abilities as a writer. Still, I could not stop writing because it is a part of me. It is my magnificent obsession.
All of this came into context when I read George Orwell’s book, Why I write. He faced the same struggles, doubt, and obstacles as a writer. I understood them and felt connected with Orwell. He shared the same magnificent obsession as a writer.
Now comes the big question:
Do YOU have a magnificent obsession?
Don’t think too hard about this question. What do you feel? Is there some activity, job, belief, etc. that has been nagging at you? That just won’t go away?
I believe that everyone has a magnificent obsession whether they know it or not.
They hear the still, silent voice that keeps nagging at them to get started on it. That will not let them forget it.
It is a great gift to know your magnificent obsession. But it is also a great responsibility. It must be done!
There are days when I think that I don’t want to write, or think about writing, or plan my writing, or have any thing to do with writing. But those are bad days—because I didn’t write. I didn’t live up to my “magnificent” responsibility. And I let myself down. Possibly let others down too.
The joys and wonders of a magnificent obsession are balanced by the deep, burning responsibility of having it.
Imagine a day when LeBron did not play basketball.
Or a day when Mozart did not write music.
Or a day when Shakespeare did not write a sonnet.
Or a day when Martin Luther King did not preach.
Or a day when Bill Gates did not write code.
Or a day when Nelson Mandela did not fight for freedom.
Or a day when Bjorn Borg did not play tennis.
Or a day when my son did not ride his long board.
Those would not be good days.
I try to limit those non-magnificent days. However, I do have them. It is harder to write on the next day though I feel even more compelled and driven to do so. And the magnificence returns!
Like my son on the long board, a magnificent obsession can take a person to a new level.
Indulge that magnificent obsession and reap the benefits, rewards, burdens, and magnificence.
It’s good for you.
It’s good for the world.
Harbor your magnificent obsession and change the world!