Think Big or Don’t Think!

A very good friend who is also a Rabbi sends me some great words of wisdom on the weekly Torah portion each week. I suggested he start a blog. I think I have convinced him. Ultimately, it is a great way to hone your writing skills and to have a place to look back on how your thoughts have evolved, like a journal does. I was quite interested in an interview I heard last week between Penn Jillete and Tim Ferriss. Penn Jillete, the magician that is part of Penn and Teller, has kept a journal for many years and when he writes an entry he looks back at what he wrote 10 years ago on the same day to see where his mind was and how his thoughts have evolved.

When I explained that I thought eventually he would need a full website and newsletter, he said, “Wow, you think big.” I said spontaneously “Think big or don’t think.” Time is precious but one thing is certain, in keeping with Hillel “If I am not for myself, who will be for me, if I am only for myself, what am I, if not now, when?” Now is the time to refine your thinking through writing because this makes you a more functional human being capable for helping others, especially if that involves imparting education.

The main challenge is finding your unique voice. People spend a lifetime trying to mimic others who they see as great. But, as my teacher, of blessed memory, Gerald Epstein, MD taught me, to do so, is a form of idolatry. Find and use the TOOLS of others to help you, but to see another as greater than you when you are made in the image of God and serve a unique purpose on this earth is to become an idolater, by placing something you think greater than you between you and God.

Authenticity is the way to go. In fact for most of us, I think, our life is about finding out our unique contribution. A lesson can be learned from the saint / tzaddik Reb Zusha of Anapoli. As it is recorded in HaAchim HaKedoshim: Reb Zusha was laying on his deathbed surrounded by his disciples. He was crying and no one could comfort him. One student asked his Rebbe, “Why do you cry? You were almost as wise as Moses and as kind as Abraham.” Reb Zusha answered, “When I pass from this world and appear before the Heavenly Tribunal, they won’t ask me, ‘Zusha, why weren’t you as wise as Moses or as kind as Abraham,’ rather, they will ask me, ‘Zusha, why weren’t you Zusha?’ Why didn’t I fulfill my potential, why didn’t I follow the path that could have been mine.

And from that we can all learn. How much of our days is spent as someone else who we think we should be as opposed to spending the time finding our our unique contribution? When you think big, aspiring to be someone great by being someone else is the way of the material world. The way of the spirit is to learn from Reb Zusha and think big for you, for your unique contribution.

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Jonathan Carp, MD

Dermatologist, health food entrepreneur, beach addict, and health teacher.