What is Success?
Success is about money, beauty, fame and power. Ask anyone. It’s also about owning stuff. Preferably, lots of stuff. In fact, the more stuff, the better, Apparently. It’s also about what people think of you. Your personal brand. Your achievements. If only it was about happiness. Fulfillment. Kindness. Giving. Connection. Contentment. Love. Loving. Being loved.
The Accumulation Nation
If earning a thousand dollars a week is good, then two thousand must be twice as good. That’s the rule. It’s what we’re taught from a young age. Based on that logic, three thousand dollars would be awesome and five thousand, totally mind-blowing. And so on. That’s how success works. In modern-day Australia (or insert your country of choice), success is quantifiable. Visible. Tangible. Formulaic.
If only life was a theory.
Expanding into Misery
There was a time when I owned five businesses (in five different locations) and employed more than a hundred people. While I was no Bill Gates or Warren Buffet, by the time I was thirty I was earning more money and experiencing more professional success than I had ever anticipated. Three of those businesses were gyms and according to the well-meaning pseudo experts around me (there were a few), it was only a matter of time until those three gyms turned into a national chain.
If only I was as excited about that notion as they were.
Rather than exciting me, the idea of more businesses, more staff and more work (of that nature) depressed me. In the middle of my ‘success’, I felt anything but successful. I felt trapped. Anxious. Fraudulent. I felt like a pseudo-entrepreneur ticking obligatory boxes and living out the professional dreams and expectations of others.
I felt like I was role-playing someone else’s version of success.
And it wasn’t that I was doing anything wrong (in a general sense), but instinctively (not intellectually), I knew that I was doing the wrong thing – for me. At the time, it was something of a dichotomy because, on one hand (intellectually, logically, financially), my results indicated that I was doing great but on the other, my overwhelming sense was that I wasn’t doing great.
“How can success feel so crap”, I often asked myself.
In reality (my reality), I wasn’t successful at all. Making money is making money and success is success. Sometimes they’re the same thing, sometimes not. That period of my life was one of my first major ‘things aren’t always as they seem’ lessons. Not long after that, I changed my life, my focus and the way I ‘worked’ completely. Some people thought I had ‘lost it’ but I was comfortable that I had actually ‘found it’.
What I’ve since come to understand (and teach) is that success is totally personal. Beyond the survival basics (food, water, health care, safety, money to live), success is different things to different people. And not only is that okay; it’s normal, healthy and necessary.
A Childhood Lesson
I remember being five years old and standing near the sink, watching my mother cook. Being a fat kid obsessed with food, I was never far from the kitchen. It was my favourite room. The room that made me happy. I noticed my mother handling something that looked a lot like a lolly (a sweet). I told her that I needed to eat one of her ‘lollies’. She informed me that it wasn’t a lolly and that I wouldn’t like it. Of course, I didn’t believe her. After all, it was the size and shape of a lolly, and most importantly, it was in a lolly-like wrapper. After much debate, my much-smarter-than-me mother, obliged and handed over a lolly.
Well, you can imagine my lack-of-delight when I started chewing on my first beef stock cube.
Yes friends, in life, things aren’t always as they seem. Lollies are not always lollies and success is not always success.