What is success?
Is it making $100,000 a year? Is it living in a high-rise building? Is it getting married? Is it living by yourself?
The reason this question is so important is because most anxiety and depression comes from the answer. It has more than 50 shades of meaning, but the word is permanently grey.
Motivational speaker Earl Nightingale defined success as “the progressive realization of a worthy goal or ideal.” That’s a nice way to put it, but I think it’s just part of the equation.
Just because you’re striving for something doesn’t make you successful. In fact, society will tell you that’s the furthest thing from the truth.
The thing about society is that we put labels on everything. Why do we do it? Easy.
With all that's happening in our daily lives, labels are an easy way to compartmentalize everything. If we had to think of the complexities and grey areas of every situation, we wouldn’t be able to function.
Unfortunately, this is where success comes into the picture. Honestly, I think the idea of success is a joke.
It’s a joke because other people make it up. And, it’s too easy to be black and white instead of attributing all the factors.
As we get older, we unfortunately determine our “level of success” by comparison.
Facebook doesn’t help; when your friends from high school have houses, are in Facebook official relationships and make double the amount of money you do, are they winning?
Just because they routinely get 250 likes and you’ve never topped 100, does that make them better than you? Are you better than them? Is there even an answer to this?
The fact is, I don’t even think it matters. Ultimately, you’re on your own path and I’m on my own. I can’t be you and you can’t be me.
I’ve experienced failure in my life and it sucks. I still feel like a bum when I see guys I grew up with who are millionaires while I’m still worried about subway fares rising 50 cents.
But again, does that make them more “successful” than I am? Well, if we’re keeping score on paper, yes it does. If this were a basketball game, they would have 100 points and I would have two.
But the fact is, life isn’t black and white and success isn’t ranked on a scale of one to 10. I recently interviewed Demetrius Spencer, the CEO of Ball Up and the person who built an "American Idol"-esque basketball show as one of the top-rated programs on Fox Sports.
When I asked him about his success, he said:
"Am I successful on paper? Yes. But true success is ownership of whatever your idea or passion is. Building that dream is a success […] seeing it come to life and never giving up. "When I look around me and see that I created hundreds of jobs for friends and family who deserve it, that makes me feel successful."
This life we have is interesting. Being alive in this period of time, in your part of the world, is a miracle in itself. I once heard a podcast where a therapist talked about how the odds of even being alive is a miracle.
You have passed through generations of people just to get here. Think about it: thousands of years ago, your ancestors had to survive in the harsh world, many living to be only 30 years old.
Then, hundreds of years ago, those ancestors had to keep the lineage alive. Then your great grandparents, your grandparents and then your parents.
And then, if those odds weren’t bad enough, you had to fight with hundreds of thousands of little you's to be the one who would make it in this world.
You’re a fighter. So, if you’ve accomplished nothing in your entire life so far, be proud of yourself for even showing up to the party.
I have a fortune from a fortune cookie that I keep in my room that says,
“There is no end. There is no beginning. There is only the infinite passion of life.”
Where you fall into this mix comes from bestselling author, Steven Pressfield, in his book, "The War of Art." In it, he writes:
"We’re not born with unlimited choices. We can’t be anything we want to be. We come into this world with a specific, personal destiny. We have a job to do, a calling to enact, a self to become. We are who we are from the cradle, and we’re stuck with it. "Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it. "If you were meant to cure cancer or write a symphony or crack cold fusion and you don’t do it, you not only hurt yourself, you hurt your children. You hurt me. You hurt the planet."
You are one in infinity. There never was, and never will be, another you.
So, f*ck success. Be you. Do your part in the world and do it the best you possibly can.
We’re all waiting for it.