Searching for Greatness

Suppose for a moment that you’re an advertising executive, and your job is to come up with a campaign to market video game products. Your target audience is made up mostly of adolescent or young adult males, and your objective is to convince them to spend significant amounts of their (or their parents’) money on your products. So here’s the question: What’s your plan? How are you going to hook them?

The obvious answer would probably be to appeal to their hormones; grab a supermodel and make her the spokesperson for your product. Or perhaps you’d infuse some peer pressure; make the audience believe that all the cool kids are already buying your product, and if they want to fit in, they need to buy it, too.

But a few years ago, Sony took an entirely different angle when it came time to launch their anticipated PlayStation 4. Instead of selling it with sensuality or coolness, they took the surprising route of advertising their new gaming console with the memorable tag line, “Greatness Awaits.” In a popular 2013 TV commercial, the viewer was asked, “Who are you to be anonymous—you, whose name should be spoken in reverent tones or in terrified whispers? And who are you to deny greatness? If you would deny it to yourself, you deny it to the entire world. And we will not be denied!”

Now I’m not a marketing guru, but I recognize compelling advertising when I see it. And this is some dramatic and appealing stuff!

Yet in spite of its emotional force, I can’t help but notice the profound irony at work here. Keep in mind that the product in question is one which empowers its users to do nothing more than sit in dark rooms in front of bright screens, pressing little plastic buttons with their thumbs as they guide imaginary characters to pursue imaginary achievements within imaginary worlds. And while there’s certainly nothing wrong with some recreational video gaming every now and then, that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about selling a lifestyle of sedentary non-productivity by—of all things—the promise of greatness.

It’s a curious formula. And yet it strikes a chord—and not just with young, gaming-addicted males.

See, to one degree or another we all crave greatness. We long to do something remarkable and leave behind a legacy. We know our time here is short, and we want to make as big of a splash as we can while we still have the time. We’ll do anything to escape the curse of anonymity.

And yet the PlayStation advertising campaign helps us see that as eager as we are to find greatness, we’re woefully misguided about where such greatness can be found.

I suppose in many ways we’re not unlike the disciples, who came to Jesus asking about which of them would have the honor of sitting next to him in his glory. Jesus, however, cut right to the point: “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant” (Mark 10:43). He doesn’t rebuke their desire to attain greatness; he rebukes their desired method of achieving it.

Do you want to be great? If so, you’ll never get there by climbing over others—whether in your career, your home, your social circles, or your video games. Instead, you’ll get there in the same way Jesus did—through servanthood, sacrifice, and humility.

When you take a meal to a family in need, or loan a car to your neighbor, or tackle a project at work without being asked, the world may not stop and throw you a parade. But be assured of this: you’re closer to greatness than any self-centered celebrity or power-drunk corporate executive (or bleary-eyed video gamer) will ever be.

Greatness truly does await us. But only if we know where to look.

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