There’s this interesting notion that desperation is the best thing that can happen to us. I just watched two movies for Mother’s Day with my mom - The Great Gatsby, and Iron Man 3. In a way, both were about desperation, but the last one explicitly, so I’ll start there.

Aldrich Killian, main villain, reveals that he owes his success to Tony Stark - after Tony rejected him and left him hanging outside on the roof after a party in Switzerland, Aldrich was driven to despair and desperation. After entertaining the thought of suicide, he suddenly comes to the revelation that he now has a driving force in life: to exact his revenge on Tony, and in his desperation he resolves to see his enmity to its end. So ultimately, Tony’s having left him with no where to turn was what made him into the very successful supervillain he is today.

Same bit of a story with Gatsby. Grows up desperately poor, and it’s that extreme desperation that makes him resolve that somehow, some way, he will make something of himself, and chase his green light to its fruition.

Similar examples can be found littered through real life. Perhaps like Buckminster Fuller, who at 32 was jobless, impoverished, and with a dead daughter. Or perhaps Charlie Chaplin, who was sentenced to a workhouse when he was just 7.

To be honest, I think I’ve read more accounts of successful people encountering significant hardships than not. Whether or not their success is borne out of the hardship is up for debate. Perhaps hardship is just oft found hand in hand with success for the simple reason that trying for something big is hard and risky, and more often than not failure is the result.

To put it another way, and perhaps more correctly, perhaps success is most often achieved by those who want it the most. And who can anyone really want anything more than the truly, madly desperate? Who, perhaps, dreams of being rich more than the hopelessly impoverished?

I honestly don’t know the answer. Sometimes I oscillate between opinions. Sometimes, I think the best thing to do is to forsake everything I have, give myself a thousand dollars and go somewhere entirely on my own and try to make it up from there. Perhaps, when I realize there really is no other option left, I’ll make my way up.

But other times, I think about how wise this line of thought really is. What happens when the desperation goes away, as it inevitably will if success comes knocking? Does that mean the desire to succeed diminishes as well?

It doesn’t seem so, really, looking at anecdotal cases. It seems the ambitious tend to stay ambitious, and continue to climb even after reaching astounding heights of success. They keep chasing after the green light, which keeps receding ever further [this is not entirely accurate, as I believe the green light may have been implicating the past as opposed to some distant, dreamy future].

So given that, maybe desperation doesn’t really have much to do with it at all, but for possibly sparking that initial ambition and will to power. But after that, it’s self-sustaining, and keeps moving up of its own accord. The problem, then, becomes not having lack of ambition, but not knowing when to stand back and not lose oneself to the endless race.

Perhaps desperation is an answer to those of us who have not yet had the burning desire sparked within us. But perhaps it is wholly unnecessary for those of us who burn already with our own fires. We’ll keep moving up, desperate or not. We’re always desperate in our own minds. We’ve got something to prove to someone, and it proven it must be.


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