“Do you remember who you were before the world told you who to be?”
We are born into the world like a blank canvas. We revive our parents’ broken dreams with the hope of rendering them brand new. This hope comes with responsibility: we do not understand this right away. We are like the dough that requires good kneading to strengthen, rise and transform. Our education begins the day we take our first breath. We are taught ancient fears. “Ancient” because they are passed down generation to generation under the guise of “advice”, “warning”, “mentoring” and “parenting”.
In realty, we are born with two fears built into our DNA: the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises, a survival mechanism whose sole purpose is to motivate emotion and activate our fight or flight response. Two fears. Think about that. By the time we reach adulthood the list of our fears looks more like a grocery list.
At the top of the list is the fear of being unsuccessful.
We are taught — by our well-meaning parents, our environment and the media — misguided recipes for success. Worse, we are told that those who do not meet the standards are inferior to those who do. We put money, fame and beauty on a pedestal while we tuck integrity, loyalty and honesty in a dusty cupboard. Most of us will chase this skewed definition of success all of our lives: We will “get rich or die trying” (yes, I just quoted a 50 Cent album).
The desire for success in itself is not a bad thing. We all crave that moment when metaphorical stars align and we reap what we have sown after years of hard work and sacrifice. It is our definition of “success” that is troublesome and often what we are willing to do — or lose — in its pursuit. Since the dawn of times, ambition has been confused for cruelty and arrogance.
Today’s definition of success looks like…
We yearn for material riches because we think it will make us happy.
We compete for Facebook likes, YouTube views and IG followers because we hope that it will make us feel less lonely.
We date and fawn over trophy partners because we convince ourselves that if they learn to love us, maybe then we will learn to love ourselves.
We buy trendy clothes, trade in our leased cars for whatever make is hot right now, take out higher mortgages on houses we can’t afford and decorate them with furniture and artifacts that make us look refined and cultured because we want others to think we are in control, even though we were never in control to begin with.
We send our children to the best schools and over-schedule them because we are afraid if they don’t get the best start in life, then they will in turn be unsuccessful.
It’s a vicious cycle.
“Success” is like the blinders one puts on a horse to keep it from looking side ways but that’s where real life happens, that’s where all the beautiful moments and experiences we will look back on in our old age take place.
When you are too focused on an elusive term that makes you miserable because you do not have it, you lose out on happiness. The little truth that nobody will tell you until you taste it for yourself? Success is as deceitful as it is fleeting.
Once you reach one goal, you feel the immediate need to surpass it or worse, you are crippled by the fear of losing what you have acquired.
A wise man once said that one shouldn’t attempt to become a man of success but rather a man of value.
I would like to add that perhaps, if we redefine our views of success, it might actually become something worth pursuing in the first place. Just maybe if we value self introspection and follow our passions without putting our humanity on hold, if we learn to see the boundless beauty in the things that are so freely given (like your child’s laughter, your partner’s sincere embrace, an awe-inspiring hike through the woods, a deep conversation with a friend or quiet mornings) and practice gratitude so that we never grow desensitized by our blessings, then yes, I could definitely get behind this “success”.
It’s funny because human beings never truly learn from the past nor do we look to those who came before us for wisdom. If you take the time to ask an elder whom you respect about their regrets or the most poignant and meaningful chapters of their personal history, I can guarantee you they will not talk about their job or how much money they blew at Nordstrom’s or how they once dated a famous actor (unless it was the love of their life). No, they will tell you about all the things we take for granted.
I stumbled on this blog post, and it perfectly illustrates my personal definition of success. The following wisdom crumbs are courtesy of the dying.
How about we:
Live our own dreams
Whether it is to surf every day or raise your own chickens or write a youth novel or sing in front of a crowd.
Take lots of risks
“Being cautious is not worth the consequence of having a life of muted mediocrity”.
Invest in your friends and family
Your money can never hug you back, console you when you are hurting, laugh with you until you crack your ribs or be your rock when you are drowning.
Don’t take yourself too seriously
Put some pink streaks in your hair if you wish, be yourself (after all, everybody else is taken) even if (and especially when) you find yourself extra dorky; know that you are your biggest critics (to people who matter, you are a freaking rockstar), laugh and laugh often…
Strive to leave behind a legacy
“People who are dying often look back and wish they had done more to touch peoples’ lives. They wished they had a greater positive impact on those they leave behind.”
We often think of “success” in terms of money but life is so much more than a piece of paper with dead presidents (or prime ministers) on it; you may squander your money but do not squander your life chasing an elusive dream that will break you.
It’s only when we comprehend the intrinsic gift and power of being able to breathe in and out this instant, of being able to choose how we want to spend the rest of our days (regardless of all the excuses of why we cannot make a change), can we truly become all that we can be and all that we are meant to be. How about we follow our passions (and not paychecks), exploit our talents (and not one another), love our friends and family (and not our bank accounts) and create a lifestyle that is organic and authentic?
And hell, if along the way, you do stumble on this thing our society refers to as “success”, then don’t let it get to your head or change your heart, kid. Stumble on success, or better yet, let it stumble on you.
FYI : This blog post was first published on http://www.writer-bandit.com/