What’s success, anyway?

SCHEDULED: 2010-07-30 Fri 08:00

Cate Huston and I are figuring out happiness and success. She wonders if happiness inhibits success, and if that jolt of insecurity is necessary for greatness. I’m happy and successful, so I want to explore what that means, and if being content gets in the way of being great.

It seems like you need that kind of driving ambition in order to live the kind of life that gets written about in books. This is great. History has both happy geniuses and unhappy geniuses, although we tend to focus more on the unhappy geniuses. (Perhaps they make us feel better about ourselves?)

The language that we use to talk of happiness frames it as a pursuit, a goal. People dream of being happy. People work on being happy. People achieve happiness. Or they achieve their previously-set goals, only to find that the goalposts have moved. They thought they’d be happy with a hundred thousand dollars in the bank, and now they want a million.

What if happiness isn’t something to be pursued? What if it just is? What if you just are?

What if you accept the world as it is, and find your serenity and happiness in each moment? What if you don’t need to be entertained or loved each moment? What if you can find the grace in the pain and the joy of life?

I’m happy. Sometimes I’m annoyed on the surface, but I’m generally happy, and it’s fun to grow even happier–to get better at reflexive happy-do. I’m successful: I’m alive, I’m happy, and I love. (This is not dependent on being loved back, although that makes things even awesomer!)

Realization: Growth doesn’t stop when you’re doing well. Your questions change. Instead of asking, “Why does this suck?” or “How can I make this suck less?”, you ask, “How wonderful can it be? How can I help get there? How can I help more people experience this?”

A tangent: One of the interesting job openings at work is looking for people who want to challenge the status quo. Reflecting on that, I realized that my drive is different. I want to share the status quo, recognizing that there are many kinds of status quo. My status quo is that I’m happy, I have a wonderful life, and I work with an awesome organization. Within that organization, there are pockets of status quo like that. Within each person, there are moments like that. I want to bring out those moments. There will probably be resistance, even from people who already want to change, but we don’t have to be adversaries.

It’s different when you start from a perspective of abundance and love.

It will be an interesting experiment to see if I can keep this perspective through the years. Deepen it. Share it.

What’s success?

Dreaming, I could set my sights on a job title and climb the ladder; carve out a name for myself in history through endeavor; become a titan and create an empire. (It would be nice to be like Carnegie and plant libraries all over!) There are people with drive and ambition enough for that. People will do what needs to be done.

Maybe I will explore the little way, the ordinary life well-lived. As my parents’ example continues to teach me, you don’t need an Extraordinary Master Life Plan to make awesome things happen. My ordinary-but-awesome life so far is working well, although occasionally people need a reminder that these things are ordinary and doable.

So: success. What is it, anyway? If I can live, be happy, and share happiness, that should be pretty good. We can figure out how wonderful life can be (for as many people as possible) along the way.

Hmm, time to read up on philosophy again. I need better words and perspectives to explore this! =)

2010-07-27 Tue 19:42

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  • Paul

    Your early comments sound a lot like Ekhart Tolle and his book “The Power of Now”

    Success = A job I enjoy and enough money to do the things I want when not working.

  • Interesting thought. I’ll play around with it a little: success is the ability to enjoy your work and your life. Or your work, really, as life is the wonderful work of being human… =)

  • What a great question to start the post: “She wonders if happiness inhibits success and if that jolt of insecurity is necessary for greatness”. A long standing question that I have personally pondered is… what trait makes a great person great? And, is that a trait that I am willing to work on? Your question brings in the issue of happiness which sums up an inner striving in the majority of people I have come across. But happiness is not a trait rather, a by-product of contentment, which you also talked about with great insight :D In regards to the trait that truly makes a person great, I would contemplate that it could be humility ;) Sacha, you inspire pure thought! Thanks again for your wonderful efforts!

  • All things considered, I’d rather be a happy achiever than a tragic achiever. ;) It clears a better path for people to take and makes it easier for them to surpass what I do.

  • Tragic achievement could never be a good thing in my mind. Thinking back on all the people that have had a major impact on my life, it is those with a passion for what they do! Those people may not have had roles or even be written about in history books, but they loved what they were doing and I responded. It may be so, that I even surpassed many of them ;) The question remains what is driving a person to tragically achieve and is it really a bad thing as I suggest?

  • Tragic achievement has its place. Many poets and writers were troubled, and the drama in their lives sharpened their thoughts. Even in computer science, people like Alan Turing led complicated lives. Sometimes you do what you can within the constraints of society or circumstance. It’s neither good nor bad, it just is.

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