What is success?

-Bobbie Lu –

-Susie Q –

I’ve been avoiding writing this and I have come to the conclusion that is because I have no good answer. I. Just. Don’t. Know. So, I’ll explain what success is for me – which seems to be a feeling of accomplishment. However, I realize that this definition is totally internal and unquantifiable – so it can not apply to anyone else in the way I understand it. That means that success is completely different based on each individual – Webster would not really enjoy my definition. I don’t think I do either. It’s really a “lack of” a definition.

Let me try to paint a picture of my idea of success. A friend of mine described a moment where someone at a gathering asked him the very typical question, “What do you do?” His response was inspired. He started by pointing to his wife across the room and said he had the privilege of being married to that amazing woman. He then continued with the facts that he was the terribly proud father of a wondrous 9 year old, that he was an adventure seeker, and that he was a tinkerer – he loved to “make” and “fix” things. Then he ended with, “and for a job, I . . .” Needless to say, the person he was speaking to was caught off guard – in a good way, mind you – but they were expecting the typical response. The one that sounds like “I am (insert job title here).” This being followed by appropriate hmms, and ahhs, and questions geared to look like genuine interest.

I loved this obtuse response. Right now I feel I am reinventing myself – or maybe I am actually uncovering layers I have just not discovered yet. How great to not let your job define who you are. It may be a part of you – but not usually the most important part. It is not your “success.”

So, back from my tangent, but I promise I will connect the dots. I think success is when I can see myself, define myself, believe in myself as an explorer, an adventure seeker, as a helper to others, as a person to turn to, as a proud mother and wife, as someone who tinkers in science, a lover of history, and ohh, for a job I . . .

Success seems to be determined by our society. In the US, success has become some variation of the American Dream. Over the years it has morphed slightly from the house with a white picket fence, wife, car, 2.5 kids, but the main tenants remain the same. Success is a college degree, marrying the perfect partner and making sure that you live happily ever after; then, have a family, buy a house, maybe a second house, some cars, more things, always more…. And then there is your job. Oh man, you’re going to work like a dog and say thank you for the opportunity. Your job is all consuming, it’s the rat race: follow the rules, dress appropriately, achieve, achieve, achieve, and then you’ll get a promotion so you can feel free to work harder. Good thing your marriage is guaranteed a happily ever after…

There are a number of issues with this version of the dream, one of them is that there are so many people. We can’t all have that job success. We all are not going to have that career trajectory. Everyone goes to college, some work hard, some don’t care, we all get out with the same degree. Face it, college isn’t about the education, it is the last hurrah, it’s treated as the best excuse for arrested development before a lifetime of hustling and disappointment. What does a degree mean any more? And all of the people working? They are sick, exhausted, uninspired, marriages are failing, people don’t know how to communicate, mental health issues run rampant. What about any of this screams success? Having success defined by our society, your job, and your relationship status sure hasn’t served very many of us.

To beat the inevitable doom spiral that comes from the realization that we are all fucked if we try to measure ourselves against this standard of success, it’s imperative to define success for yourself. Here is what a successful life would look like for me:

  • Allowing the important things to take time.
  • Enjoying things being slow and not constantly getting sucked into the hustle.
  • Having the time and energy to be present for my friends and family.
  • Prioritizing my health, both emotional and physical, so that I can show up and be creative, inspired, and energized in all that I do.
  • Having true connections with my friends and family.
  • Living rooted in my values
  • Feeling balanced in life between work and hobbies and allowing both to be a source of dignity.
  • Continuing to be curious and always seeking to learn more
  • Saying no, not overextending myself, maintaining some boundaries.

Mostly, I want to live my life on my terms and not try to navigate from someone else’s road map.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s