Made It Moments

What if making it was a series of moments? As opposed to a permanent state of being?

AT THE FRONT // BY Cornelius MCGrath

Dearest Reader, 

It has been one hell of a quarter since we last spoke. I’m maskless in almost all places here in Chicago (bar the airport, of course). It feels like the long-awaited summer has officially arrived in the Midwest. And I turn 26 next week, having spent the last three months skiing steep slopes in Crested Butte, playing golf and kicking it on the beach in Savannah, hiking and drinking delicious all-natural wine by the pool in Phoenix, and scooting up and down the Beltline in Atlanta.

Dare I say the world is back? Punctuated with memorable evenings spent befriending two-time Michelin star chefs, Pulitzer-finalists, newly-minted entrepreneurs, wine savants and cocktail connoisseurs, spring has been good to me. I’ve also had the distinct pleasure of meeting some of our most talented readers in person for the first time.

Cornelius McGrath hosting a Chef’s Table dinner. Savannah, GA.

Spending such consistent time with high-calibre human beings has led me to ask one question repeatedly: when did you know you’d made it?

Q2 has been a rollercoaster ride of primarily positive emotions. Many ‘goals’ (if you can call them that) checked off the list. We are starting to get serious validation from high-calibre individuals and institutions worldwide for what we are building. It marks a distinct but welcome departure from this time last year, a period where this entire vision and state of the world was but a faint and somewhat distant idea. 

Spending such consistent time with high-calibre human beings has led me to ask one question repeatedly: when did you know you’d made it? I adore asking this question. In part because it is incredibly challenging to answer. But moreover, because it a) brings you inside the inner monologue of said person and b) reveals their actual scorecard. 

At first, you expect to hear about concrete goals or milestones being hit. For example, you are winning an award, reaching a particular title, revenue goal or broader industry status. But, at least among the true greats, it is rarely ever that straightforward. The answers I have received to this question often end with these wild talents describing a feeling. Usually, the feeling comes from someone they’ve long admired saying “well done”, “I see you”, “you’re onto something”, or some combination of all three.

The worst part, however, is that this feeling doesn’t last. At least among the truly great. Tyson Fury is case-in-point. On Mike Tyson’s podcast, Hotboxin’ with Mike, Fury described what it felt like to become heavyweight champion of the world. Something he had worked his entire life to achieve, beating alcoholism, poverty and a flurry of mental illness setbacks. He finally did it in 2015, emphatically beating Wladimir Klitschko, who was reigning champion for 9-and-a-half years. Fury said the buzz of becoming heavyweight champion of the world lasted but five minutes. Upon which, he said: “Is that it?”

I share this story as I’m starting to think about “making it” not a permanent state of mind but rather a series of moments. There is little to no finality in the feeling. After all, the next set of dreams are always on the precipice of our imagination. One one of our writers describes this reality through the lens of hedonic adaption. It tells me that “have we made it?” or “will we ever make it?” are the wrong questions. A better set of questions seem to be: what feeling are we chasing next? Why are we chasing that feeling? And what moment do we think will bring it to us?

And in his first essay for 1727, Griffin contends with one question: am I great?

That brings us neatly to the cover theme of our second issue, “Note to Self”, where we dive deep into the inner monologues of four world-class performers, all at different stages of lifes journey.

Our cover story features Professor Patrick Griffin, a long-time mentor and friend. He most recently won the Harmsworth Fellowship – known widely as the most prestigious fellowship in the field of history, in large part because you don’t apply for it. You are given it. Griffin, a history professor at the University of Notre Dame, will spend the next year teaching, researching and lecturing at the University of Oxford. And in his first essay for 1727, Griffin contends with one question: am I great?

Next, we hear from one of the most talented 22-year olds I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting, Matthew Price. Price is just days away from graduating from one of the most prestigious institutions in the world in Northwestern University. He took time to reflect on his coming-of-age entrepreneurial success and how it has left him thinking about the unknown.

Then, we strike a slightly different tone with entrepreneur, comedian and award-winning filmmaker Jennifer Jane. She tells a more cautionary tale about what it actually takes to make it in business and all that there is to consider before deciding to dive in headfirst.

Finally, Zach Imholte, a world-class leader and engineer at Palantir, shares what growing up in poverty has taught him about sacrificing his present for a future that may never arrive.

It goes without saying: this issue is our best yet. 

Cornelius McGrath listening to ideas about the art world. Phoenix, AZ.

We hope to see you all next month in Chicago for our Junto weekend, taking place over the 17th, 18th and 19th of June. We’re hosting an artist night with the formidable Zoe Rain, playing a round of golf at Illinois’ #3 course, and sitting down to a few delicious chef tables dinners at Chicago’s top dining establishments. If you can’t make it to Chicago, do not fear. We’ll also be hosting a digital conversation with the school-choice advocate, legal scholar and author, Kate Hardiman on what modern-day schools should look like. So stay tuned for more.

Thank you for your support. As always, you can find me at Cheers.

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