Originally published by the Atlas Society.
July 20 is the anniversary of one of humanity’s greatest accomplishments, the first lunar landing.
We should not only give a shout out to the thousands of people who made it possible for Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to walk the surface of another world. We should each celebrate this date as Human Achievement Day, to acknowledge all achievements, especially our own.
Here are four facts on which you should reflect.
Achievements are what human life is all about. Unlike other animals, we humans need to create the means for our physical survival as well as our spiritual well-being. We need to figure out how to acquire food, build shelters, cure illnesses, build cities, travel to the Moon, and create everything that deserves the label “civilization.”
Take a moment to look around you. Everything that is supportive of your life and your flourishing is an achievement of human beings.
Achievements are the pursuit of your own individual goals and dreams. Our achievements are many and varied, whether nurturing a child to maturity or a business to profitability; whether writing a song, poem, business plan, or dissertation; whether laying the bricks to a building or designing the building or arranging for its financing. Your achievements as an individual not only allow you to survive, put food on the table, and enjoy the amenities of life: They also give you spiritual fuel. They are manifestations of the fact that you are capable of meeting the challenges of life and are worthy of the happiness that achievement brings you.
Take a moment to reflect on your own achievements and take pride in them. Perhaps reaffirm the current and future goals you wish to achieve.
Achievements come first and foremost from your own individual virtues; indeed, your greatest achievement is the creation of your own moral character. To achieve your goals you must exercise rationality to understand the world around you. You must exercise independent judgment, using your own mind and not relying simply on the opinions of others to guide your thinking and action. You must exercise integrity, never acting against your own judgment just because others disagree with you. You must practice honesty, first and foremost with yourself, and never pretend that the real world is something other than what it is. Your evasion of reality will not change it.
Take a moment to reflect on the virtues that have allowed you to achieve the things you value. Where you find yourself wanting, plan the steps to reform your own moral character.
Achievements require a supportive culture that you must help create. Culture permeates everything, and you’re often as unaware of it as you are of the air you breathe. A culture is constituted in the values, priorities, assumptions, and expectations that influence you through family and friends, institutions, media, entertainment, politics, and much more. Culture for better or worse molds the moral character and goals of many. America’s culture used to celebrate achievement. Today it encourages infantile whining and excuse making. It marks as a “virtue” the degree to which moral weaklings take offense at real or imagined slights. It blames individual failure through individual irresponsibility on the success of those who take responsibility for their own lives.
Take a moment whenever you see an achievement to praise it to your fellows. And point out to those who spew resentment against achievement that it is beneath their dignity and potential as human beings.
The Moon landing inspired millions in the past. And even with the anti-achievement sickness in our culture there is much that still inspires. The communications and information revolution is just the start. Entrepreneurial achievers are pioneering private space ventures, 3-D printing, robotics, nanotechnology, bio-tech, genetics, and life-extension technology, which promise exponential expansion in the future.
The potential for human achievement is endless, but only if we truly value achievement and appreciate that the achievements we create in our modern world are manifestations of the moral virtues we each create in our character.
And thus we should celebrate Human Achievement Day!