An Ancient Word That Sustains Me

I love my job. The truth is, most days it’s a lot closer to play than “work”. But in those times when deadlines won’t budge, when there’s far too much to do and nothing seems to be working as planned, I find strength in an ancient concept that is as relevant today at it was 2,000 years ago: Entelechy.

Aristotle coined the term by merging four concepts:

  • Enteles: complete, fully grown
  • Echein: the power of continued effort to sustain inherent qualitites
  • Endelecheia: persistence
  • Telos: completion

The resulting term, Entelechy, is loaded with power. My favorite definition of it is this one:

“…A particular type of motivation, need for self-determination, and inner strength directing life and growth to become all one is capable of being. It is the need to actualize one’s beliefs. It is having a personal vision and being able to actualize that vision from within…”

In fact that, this theme has been re-visited by many of my favorite philosophers and is very close to Abraham Maslow’s ideas about self actualization and the hierarchy of needs. (For more on that, see this video I did with Chip Conley regarding his book Peak.)

How To Practice Entelechy

Ok, so how do we convert potentiality into actuality? How do we take simple chemical reactions in the brain, and turn them into something tactile? How do we perform alchemy, i.e. turning lead into gold. Or, in other words, converting something common-place and mundane, into something valuable and rare.

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