Limitless: How Far, How Fast, and How Much, can You Achieve?Anja van Kralingen
This post is inspired by the movie Limitless. If you haven’t seen it yet, go and see it tonight- trust me, it’s that good.
The plot is fairly simple. The main character Eddie Morra is a down and out writer, late twenties, whose life is going nowhere fast. When, through a series of circumstances, he comes into possession of a drug, NZT-47 which increases his cognitive abilities beyond belief. He goes from Mr. Dopey to a Albert Einstein/John F. Kennedy hybrid on steroids, with an I.Q. of four digits.
A classic line from the movie sums up this transition,
‘I was blind but now I see.’
From there the movie takes the audience on a rollercoaster ride which is Eddie’s life, it is fast, dramatic and great cinema. Without spoiling the end for those that have not yet seen it, Eddie becomes a human being in a way which he wasn’t previously. He becomes not only much smarter, but attacks life with a passion and sense of determination that is inspirational. Not only his mind expands but so does his spirit. He is able to manifest his will in the world. This is not without dangers and pitfalls of course- but for those you’ll need to go and see the movie.
What Eddie Morra achieves is what everyone who ever went on a self help programme or bought a book on personal development was looking for. In this pill (NZT-47) is contained the wisdom of every guru you ever listened to, every book you ever read, plus the 100 000 out there you’re never going to get to- and it works.
Well at least it works for Eddie Morra.
You see that is a subtlety built into the plot, it doesn’t work for everyone. There are a lot of casualties of the drug. But it works for Eddie (well at least for a while). What distinguishes him from its litany of casualties?
Well you might ask what distinguishes any successful human being from his or her peers?
Now let’s drop the ‘how do we define success‘ bullshit for a moment.
And just accept, for the sake of argument that success, at least what defines success in the modern world, is: being happy, rich, good looking, charismatic, intelligent, having lots of great sex, doing something meaningful, that kind of thing, you now the good stuff .
Now admittedly such a description of success runs the risk of criticism as being very narrowly materialistic. I concede this criticism- what can I say, I’m just being a realist. I mean who are you trying to kid by saying that’s not your description of successful- seriously?
Nevertheless even if someone as a determined pot smoking, vegan, tree hugger, with strange fashion sense insists on a more ‘spiritual’ definition of what constitutes a successful human being, I’d wager NZT- 47 would be the drug of choice anyway. Assuming such a drug exited. Think about it, do you think that Jesus Christ, who in 33 years changed the course of the Western World or Buddha or Mohammed were not men of action? Do you think that one who rewrites history in his own image is not a superman in the true sense of the word?
Mahatma Ghandi may have preached passivism but don’t mistake that for non action. He didn’t become the iconic world figure he is because he didn’t know how to get things done, or hesitated to roll up his sleeves and do the work.
So what is it what differentiates the giants from us mere mortals?
Well it’s tempting to say ability, that seems to be the most intuitive answer. But the thing is that is not true, or at least not entirely true. Not if we mean by ability raw talent. It is more like it’s the ability to do two things:
- Imagine a brighter future.
- Then be able to create that future.
Now admittedly the capacity to imagine a better brighter future, with more creative solutions to today’s challenges, and the ability to implements these imagined solutions are both affected by natural ability, raw cognitive capacity. However these are only two amongst many other factors, such as:
- The ability to take action
- Capacity for work
It could be argued that these too are talents, and I suppose they are. Although generally when we refer to natural talent we are referring rather to the natural ability in a particular field, be it music, sports, business, science etc. Whereas what I suspect the biggest determining factor in success is, is simply desire. Other than circumstances beyond our control which undoubtedly play a role.
Desire to get the job done; desire to move forward; desire for life and for new experiences. As opposed to being content with the status quo.
In the movie for instance one of the first things that Eddie Morra does is tidy up his apartment, (that really was in a terrible mess before ). Now that’s an interesting activity chosen by the producers to symbolise this transformation isn’t it?
Think about it, I bet there are at least ten things on your to do list, and another ten which should be there, but aren’t, which you could name right now. Why aren’t you doing them? Well you reading this blog for one which is a good thing , but how about after this what are you going to do next?
Have a coffee, phone a friend, surf the web…or tackle something on your action list? Now don’t get me wrong do whatever you’ve got to do, but it’s an interesting question- what prompts you to take action sometime, and what holds you back at other times?
Speaking from my own experience, and please don’t think I’m suggesting myself as the model of how it should be done or what you should aspire to- because I’m not. However what I have noticed in my own life is:
- The more I do, the more I get done.
- The more I get done, the more (new things) I am able to do.
The first point we can assign to meaningless truisms, nevertheless it is a true. But the second point is more interesting, that with each step up the ladder a wider vista presents itself. Success is a series of small steps- its not one huge leap. It’s what you do today and tomorrow that ultimately enables or limits your future options.
In a way it’s quite mysterious, or at least that’s how I have experienced it. You cannot imagine what the future that you are building today will look like when you get there, and when it works and the plan comes together (sure it doesn’t always) it can be a beautiful experience. I would say almost a religious experience.
We are born with this capacity for personal change, even evolution. It’s not all there is to life, I mean life is for living and sure we should stop to smell the roses. I actually think in my own case I’m addicted to work- I cannot stop and don’t want to stop, if anything I want to do more. Now that’s not necessarily the only, or even a good, way to live- but I’ll say this, I get things done.
This kind of drive is uncomfortable, it means a constant restlessness, but it is a spur to action. And each action admits new possibilities and new actions. So I suppose the question then is when is enough, enough?
We’ll only you can answer that question. But my point is simply this, in this sense you are the author of your own fate. The pill or its potential is already latent in you, but do you want it- do you want change? And if you do, how much do you want it?
Would you take the pill?
This is an important question to ask yourself, and try and be honest in your answer. Because if the answer is yes, than what exactly is stopping you from being everything you can be right now?
I don’t think it would be entirely inaccurate to say there are two types of people those who would take NZT-47, and those who would not. Knowing into which group you fall will tell you something really important about yourself.
What matters most to you purpose or happiness?
Contrary to popular opinion these are far from synonymous. To illustrate the point a very good friend of mine went to go and see the movie. Now my friend is a young(ish), upwardly mobile professional, he is a multi-millionaire, a senior executive at one of the biggest companies in South Africa, lives in a palatial home, is happily married with beautiful children, something of a socialite and keeps himself in great physical shape. He rose to this position from humble beginnings through sheer determination and hard work- he certainly didn’t get any handouts and earned everything he has.
After seeing the movie on my recommendation he called me to rave about it and to indulge in the possibilities if such a drug were actually available, and in a sense to bemoan what he felt were his shortcomings, that he was not a perfect version of himself so to speak.
Do you get it he would take the pill because he wants more… to do more, to be more, to see more, to have more, to know more, to feel more. Whereas others I have spoken to are less sure if they would risk everything to have a shot at greatness.
I think it’s important to say that neither one of these positions is superior to the other they are just different, but knowing into which camp you fall is a valuable piece of self knowledge.