• James McNeil

The wisdom of Michelangelo and how the Air Force got it right

“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark.”


While we are intimately familiar with the idea of falling short of our goal, today I’d like to take a close look at the second part of Michelangelo’s words. What does it mean to aim too low? I struggled with this answer for a long time, but this morning I had an epiphany. Before that fateful night in September 2017 (which I’ve written about here as well as in the introduction to Finding Your Personal Mission), I had done just that. I had set my aim too low. My goal was merely to not succumb to suicidal thoughts and ideations. I had accepted that they would be there, but I did not want to succumb to them.

What’s wrong with that?

I’m glad you asked. The problem with this is the simple fact that if a thought is allowed to stick around, we will entertain it. Entertaining suicidal thoughts is deadly. So, why was I aiming so low? I’m a little ashamed to admit it now, but at the time I did not believe I could eliminate them. I believed that they would come every day (as they did at the time), and I would just have to deal with that.

In the aftermath of that night, I learned an extremely valuable lesson. I had set my sights too low. For a long time, I had “achieved the mark,” and I thought that meant I was good. I would never succumb to suicidal thoughts.

As I started to grow from that point, I realized something. I needed to take the steps to eliminate these thoughts once and for all. I needed to overcome obstacles like impostor syndrome, anger issues, a horrible attitude, and many others. I needed to work on these every day and keep myself moving toward never dealing with suicidal thoughts again.

Have I conquered it completely? I know better, and I’m sure you do too. There will always be a chance that they could come back. So, every day I need to reestablish my footing in this journey. Every day I need to work to overcome these obstacles all over again, just as I wrote in Finding Your Personal Mission. You will too.

But you can overcome this. You can "aim high" as the Air Force is fond of saying, and even if you miss the mark, you're better off.

You are not destined to struggle with suicidal thoughts every day.

Pick up your copy today on Amazon or listen to it on Audible. And remember, your story is not over yet.

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