What holds us back from pursuing something we may fail to achieve?
Is it the unreasonable expectation of being perfect or nothing else?
Is it our inability to remove ourselves from a swirl of distractions long enough to sustain the necessary deep focus?
What might we achieve and how might we grow if we pursued it anyway?
Born in 276 BC, Eratosthenes was a geographer, poet, astrologist, mathematician, and librarian. He’s credited with being the first to come up with a reasonably accurate measurement of the Earth’s circumference.
Depending on the measurement he used (which we’re not entirely sure of), he would have either been 16% or two percent off the actual circumference of 24,901 miles.
Stories like this are often portrayed as magic, as being altogether separate from our potential. But a closer look reveals that Eratosthenes was dedicated to learning from as many disciplines as possible. Indeed, entertainment for him was likely learning — a combination many of us have come to believe are separate.
Eratosthenes’ finding also reveals his keen attention to detail and willingness to explore. Upon hearing about a famous well on the Nile River where the sun illuminated the water at the bottom (not the sides) at noon on one day each year, he decided to check it out. What he saw there became the catalyst he needed to come up with his measurement.
How many others heard that story and decided to check it out?
Of those who did check it out, how many arrived at the well with such a diverse array of knowledge and a hunger to continue learning?
What he accomplished is something few of us could do today—despite having the world’s technologies in our hands.
Rather than taking that truth and putting Eratosthenes on a pedestal, we should remind ourselves of the enduring and often unexpected learnings that can grow from noble pursuits—including from those pursuits that are attached to goals we’re likely to fall short of achieving.