I used to think of success as a series of events on a straight line graph where x = performance and y = expectations. The slope always stays the same and as expectations increase, so does performance or maybe vice versa.
Want more x worker harder = success.
Life doesn’t draw straight line graphs with lives. It doesn’t reveal that many numbers to plot. Most of the time, life feels less like a mathematical equation and more like a pervasive grey fog in which I can only see my hands when I hold it up close to my face.
Success is elusive. It is an elusive concept. It can be a goal that constantly shifts the goal posts. It is often invisible to those who do not hold it in their hand. Success is getting what you want – sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t, sometimes hard work leads to success, sometimes it doesn’t.
Success feels like it should be the reward for learning how to fail better until that breaking point where different streams combine to tip the scale – luck, skill, persistence, hard work, good fortune, support. I don’t think that’s it either.
Success is a kind of gravity. Have a little and it attracts a little more. As it swallows up other small objects in its immediate surround, it grows and keeps growing as long as it keeps attracting more objects. When it growns large enough, other objects begin to orbit around it and if all goes well, success becomes the pinpoint of a solar system.
I don’t aspire to be the sun in the solar system of my life, but I dream of my life having more weight. Meaning is closely tied to success for me – not because I think money, prestige or excelling at anything is particularly important – but because I want to make a positive impact. Not by changing a life, but by changing an idea. Maybe just nudge our sense of entitlement a little off the track and encourage a larger sense of responsibility for more than ourselves.
How to achieve that? I don’t know. I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’ve failed better*. I think. Not sure though. I measure myself against a yardstick of fog. It is insubstantial and on most days, so am I.
Maybe then success is an even simpler concept. Be real. Be present. Be there. Find something to be inspired by and inspire others.
Maybe being successful is more viral. Contagious. Self-empowering. Often with a single minded purpose.
The universe is a big place, yet we confine ourselves and others to live our lives in these tiny little boxes where there is barely enough room to breathe. Why is that?
*Samuel Beckett – Worstward Ho (1983)
“”Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”