Success!- Fantasy or reality

“Stop controlling outcomes!” — my father said when I used the word “depression” for the first time in front of him. At 15, I was disheartened as I got through a big school which we could not afford for more reasons that went beyond money. The somber discussion altered unexpectedly, as we burst out laughing when I reminded him that he sold anti-depressants to make a living for us [he was sales head for a pharmaceutical company]. I was raised nothing like a typical girl child born in a financially modest Indian family from a small town [don’t be biased- the town is no longer small now!] — however that’s not the point in discussion here [maybe some other time]. Although he was more disappointed than me because of this decision we took collectively as a family, he was teaching me to be resilient. Set goals, aspire and work towards them but don’t make them your destiny or penultimate to success- you define them, they don’t define you! When I think about it, he gave me the best gift in life — my personality- he knew he was responsible for how I will think later in my life.

Its funny how we humans are drawn towards glamorous stories of struggle, people who come from humble backgrounds and make riches, who defied logic and made it big — I will quote my dad again [bear with my obsession] — in his typical Cambridge educated humor — “Defiers are coward and doers are fool”. When I think about this, it makes me wonder whether manifestation is the answer, and the more I realize, the less desperate I am for it to show up. We are fearful, we fear that whatever person, opportunity or experience is presenting itself to us is the best we can hope for, so we make our best effort to guarantee it all works out in our favor. We go insane chasing it, leaving behind everything else because nothing matters when this, opportunity presents itself- we either make it or break it. We put it on a high pedestal and compromise our values, people who we care about and relationships to go after them incessantly.

Don’t get me wrong, there is no life without goals and dreams and all of us thrive when we pursue them, but do we know how to detach from them when we want to tend to an ailing parent, or hear a friend’s disappointment or hug our siblings? Even in work situations -

Do we ever laugh hard with our peers [technically competition] in a middle of work discussion?

Do we ever feel completely comfortable acting silly with one of our subordinates?

Do we ever feel that home is right here, inside those four walls of our office, no matter what was going on outside?

Or feel so at peace with our boss, that the crises don’t matter?

To me being authentic and transparent at work is one quintessential for success. No one likes changing workplaces or industries, but if you’re working in an environment where you can’t be your authentic self, you’re unlikely to succeed, and unlikely to be happy if you do. I see a lot of discussions around as to why we should be hiding or faking emotions at work- it is somehow success defining, how you present yourself at work. Those who tell you to behave in a certain way at work, please check their bags and wallets for anti-depressants — they need it the most.

I was aghast reading this [https://hbr.org/2018/08/a-closer-look-at-how-the-opioid-epidemic-affects-employment].

It’s crazy not to be yourself at work, you cannot pretend 12 hours a day, every day- so be professional, dress appropriate [this is one of my favorites- will come to it again someday], have etiquette and respect diversity, but make friends at work, get emotional about a failure, go out of your way to support someone else, drink with your junior, celebrate a win, fight with people for what you believe in, get that result because you want to achieve it, cross a barrier with your boss, just be yourself. What are you risking by being yourself?

We do so much to get there, and even shamelessly call them sacrifices in life! How is it a sacrifice if you did it for your happiness, your promotion, your credit or contentment alone? A sacrifice means “to give up something that is valuable to you in order to help another person”. I have this very strong belief that we all are designed to live our values, be kind and help others but the flawed approaches to success lead to compromised values, broken relationships, trust issues and burnout. It is time to put the myth of success aside.

Success means different things to different people, and I want to know what’s beyond that? So, you got the house you wanted, the car that you fancied, and a fat cheque got credited to your bank account- what’s next? People should look upto me, I do what I love, my work is acknowledged, and I become famous! OK, you got that too, there’s still life left, right? What do you want still? I think you get the point — you define your success; your success doesn’t define you and that is true resilience.

“Success is transient, evanescent. The real passion lies in the poignant acquisition of knowledge about all the shadings and subtleties of the creative secrets” -Konstantin Stanislavsky