Success Won’t Make You Happy, But Chase it Anyway (Here’s Why)
“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.” — Jim Carrey
How do you think it’ll feel when you get what you want?
You have these dreams in the back of your mind that you want to pursue. Dreams that you think will help you escape the traps of monotony, “the grind,” the rat race, whatever you want to call it.
You have an entire industry predicated on selling you this dream.
So far, I’ve only made money in this space from doing a few things:
- Writing books
- Joining Medium
- A small bit of affiliate marketing
I’ve hesitated from ever going full-blown “guru,” — creating $2,000 courses teaching people how to get rich, so on and so forth.
It never felt right to me. People reach out to me asking if I consult, and I tell them no. I turn down money on purpose because I’m not interested in being a dream seller. I’m interested in telling the truth — about success, the human condition, what seems to work and what doesn’t.
I’ve basically spent my entire writing career staying a short step ahead of the places I’ve just been and writing from that perspective.
Now, after five years of work, I made it to the proverbial “other side.”
I’m not rich and famous. But I work for myself. I’m free. I have a following.
I got exactly what I wanted.
Here’s how it really feels.
This is How You’ll Feel When You “Arrive”
The euphoria of reaching a long term goal is palpable.
I’ve felt it only a handful of times:
- After publishing my books
- Speaking at TEDx
- Quitting my job and becoming a full-time writer
If I could use one word aside from euphoric to describe the feeling…it’d be this…
Don’t get it twisted. In a general sense, my life is much better. It feels great to answer to no one, have complete control of my time, and a modicum of financial independence. But moments of success don’t carry you for the rest of your life. The path, the act of creating, the doing, does.
It’s funny. I started other projects recently — my Youtube Channel and doing more social media content. My following is basically nil and I make no money from them. That being said, I now have to remind myself and exert more effort to get my writing done…the thing that I make a living from.
I like climbing.
It’s weird. I’m having fun, but it also annoys me that I’m at the bottom. When you start focusing on self-improvement a lot, you develop a masochistic relationship with growth. Going from nothing to something is a special kind of pain you can’t describe until you’ve experienced it. And once you hit that “something” level, you feel the urge to start all over.
This is why you have serial entrepreneurs who start brand new businesses even though they literally don’t have to work for the rest of their lives.
The climb, creating, trying to manifest something into reality is the entire point.
Moral of the story: To all aspiring creators, entrepreneurs, career ascenders, and life path changers. Those feelings of frustration you feel right now…on the climb? When you hit a certain traction point, you’ll look back at these times fondly. The hero’s journey always goes back to square one, full circle.
Find Out For Yourself
I agree with Jim Carrey when he says people should get rich and famous to see that it’s not what they thought, but don’t misinterpret that as “don’t try to become successful.”
No, go ahead and get successful, realize it wasn’t everything you thought it’d be, but know that it’s still a hell of a lot better than scraping by. See, you have the luxury to be more contemplative when you’ve reached your goals and increased your standard of living.
Marcus Aurelius conquered half the world first, then wrote the Meditations.
Buddha lived in the castle as Prince Siddartha first, then created Buddhism.
All of those celebrities who say success and money aren’t what they’re cracked up to be…still keep the money. They don’t renounce their possessions and become ascetic. They ain’t about that life.
You have your Epictetus’s of the world who adopted the philosophy while poor and stayed that way. But he’s an exception.
It’s hard to be deeply meditative about your life when you’re struggling to get by when you’re running on a hamster wheel inside of a whirlwind when you constantly wish for a better future.
See, even though getting what you want isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, once you get it, you no longer have to wonder what it’s like. You’re not in a permanent state of bliss, but you don’t have that nagging sense of what could’ve been.
Then, realizing you actually like the work itself, you can work from a freer place because your base level needs are covered.
That study about happiness not increasing past an annual salary of $75,000 sounds right to me. You don’t want money. You want the freedom to explore and climb. And freedom is all that it’s cracked up to be.
Moral of the Story: Success isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be, but still chase it, attain it, and enjoy a higher level of living. It’s better than “survival mode” by a wide margin.
Happiness is Overrated
To me, at least.
I don’t strive to be happy. It’s such a nebulous term. Also, almost always, happiness depends on something occurring. You want good things to happen to you so that you enter into a happy state.
But people focus so much on the good things they want to happen that they never actually do them. They live in an imaginary future that will never come true because they’ll never even do the work to get “the thing,” they think will make them happy.
I just work.
I like working, being useful, being productive, contributing. Then, I more or less feel good and content afterward. Once I rejected the idea that I had to feel good, that good feelings were owed to me, and that good feelings were something to seek, I began to feel good as a consequence because I was getting s*** done.
Maybe you don’t want to be happy. Maybe you want to be useful.
This is why many people die shortly after they retire. You’d think having all the free time in the world to relax in the sun, lay in a hammock, playing golf and sipping pina Coladas would make you happy. Nope, it kills you.
This is also why retirees begin volunteering or getting jobs even though they don’t need them. You want to feel like you matter. When you cease all action, it’s like you fade into the background of life. You have no meaning.
I told my mom I was going to retire at 40. She laughed at me. Funny thing is, it’s highly likely that I’d be able to.
But I’m not going to do it. I’ll be writing books when I’m in a nursing home. If I can’t write because my hands have carpal tunnel or arthritis, I’ll dictate. If I can’t dictate, I’ll spend all my money and resources finding devices to help me write with whatever body part still works. And I won’t be “happy.”
But when I do croak…if I have the pleasure and dignity to see it coming and die peacefully in my bed, I’ll be like “Damn Ayo, you killed it.”
Moral of The Story: Actions almost always create a better emotional byproduct than trying to change your emotions on your own
What Success is Really About
I still want to get rich, but I don’t care about money.
I want to amass huge followings, but I don’t care about numbers.
These are simply some of the more accurate measurements you can use to measure success. You gotta put numbers on the board. Actually, you don’t.
You don’t have to do anything. It’s your choice.
I’ve made the choice to chase as much success as I can because I want to be a glitch in the matrix. I want my life to be a big throbbing middle finger to a societal machine that wants nothing more than for us all to be helpless and weak.
I don’t believe in the virtues of weakness. This isn’t to say that I think people are entirely responsible for their lots in life or that I think their feelings of weakness aren’t warranted. But there’s no virtue in it. Ever. You just don’t get points in the “W” column, regardless of what caused those feelings.
There are a select few people who simply can’t be saved, can’t change, and can’t move up the ladder. I know that. I don’t know what to do for them. Honestly, I don’t. But there’s still a large number of people who are choosing to be weak. Let’s just call a spade a spade.
I don’t know you. You decide which one you are. Not me. This isn’t about me. It’s about you.
For everyone who’s able and capable…why not make it your duty to be as successful as you possibly can?
Just for the sake of it.
I don’t have any real “reasons” why I’m doing this that aren’t totally subjective. So what? This is the path I’ve chosen.
Though, not perfect by any means, I don’t know of a better one.
Ayodeji is the author of You 2.0 — Stop Feeling Stuck, Reinvent Yourself, and Become a Brand New You. Want a free copy of my first book? Get it here.