Once upon a time I (with moderate seriousness) considered trying to set the world record for the longest streak of daily blog writing. Collecting jelly beans or forming the world’s largest PokemonGo flash mob just wasn’t going to be my thing.
I certainly broke my own records, but came nowhere near that world record.
Now I’m out of that game but eagerly watching a writer friend build her way inexorably toward breaking the all-time daily blogging record of another friend (more than 1,000 posts).
This set me to thinking: how would the record holder feel about his record being broken?
I think if most of us answered this question, we would admit to feeling disappointment. Climbing one mountain only to have another person climb a taller one? That just feels like a guarantee that we’ll be forgotten, that our achievement will be forgotten. This is perhaps why so many people keep looking for the next record-breaking thing to do, even after they’ve done pretty remarkable stuff.
It’s a bad place to come from: insecurity about legacy.
To the credit of this friend, I imagine he would give a more enlightened reaction. I think he would be happy.
This is the thing about “world records”: they’re just our noting of the furthest penetration of human insight into the unknown.
And record-breakers? At their best, they’re explorers heading into a cave, carrying torches that cast light into the darkness. They yell back to humanity “oh hey, we can go further!”
If you set out to break a record, you’ll get there in part because of the people who broke records before you. And it’s no shame for your work to give another human more light to explore by. Wouldn’t you rather we find out what’s in this damn cave, instead of standing still by your flickering light?