I’ve done a lot of ranting recently about what success means in our society, the difficulties of obtaining it, and whether it will actually make you happy or not. I think of success as checking off a box, getting a medal, receiving applause, and sometimes, bringing home the bacon. Being appreciated for excellence.
I’ve also tried to think about what will make me happy, and I think often about wide open skies, untravelled roads, adventure, exploration, and not caring what other people think. It’s about the joy of the journey, and often not really having a destination. It’s also sometimes a feeling of solitary satisfaction, or the warmth of human kindness with no search for validation built in. It just seems so much more important than happiness, and sometimes I feel like the quest for success, or to find a way to compromise between what society wants and you need to feel accomplished and what you actually like. Trying to live in this space is really hard, and it takes a lot of trial and error and self knowledge before you find out something n this category, of something you like but that is materially rewarding as well. And sometimes it’s just not a clear quest at all, and because you are serving two masters you please neither.
But what if you could be successful at something that made you happy? What if people appreciated you for the things you liked about yourself and gave you pleasure to strive for, rather than the tricks you perform like a circus pony that lose all sense without the applause and an occassional penny tossed into your hat?
What if you put both your heart and ego on the line, stopped creating false dichotomies, and actually tried to succeed at the thing your heart yearns to do-knowing the chances of material “success” might be slimmer than the conventional route and you would put yourself through the wringer trying to be great, and not be able to get by on just applause anymore? You would seek mastery, practice so hard, and put what you loved as number one. Maybe you would feel a bit of purity of purpose, even if you had to do something else on the side to subsidize your passion- your real life, your real job, wouldn’t be about the money but you’d have the dignity of working anyway. And whatever your craft or passion is, chances are you wouldn’t need someone to pay you to do it, and in this day and age there’s probably some way to do it fairly inexpensively in your spare time.
But it requires cashing in your chips, breaking down barriers, and really putting your heart and soul into something. It means that an A isn’t good enough- you have to keep trying to be a virtuouso, because the trying is what makes you happy. It means taking some lumps to your ego and putting that passion to the test, to see if you just liked it- because it was easy, or because it brought you real joy.
It might mean continuing to experiment to find that thing, but what it probably means is not compromising what you love for what you “must” do and figuring out what really is important to you.
It means that every step of the journey can be the destination of doing what you love, regardless of how the world sees. And doing that while doing all those “adult” things you need to survive until you can simply thrive doing only what you love.
Or maybe it means that you will continue your passion and your day job simultaneously, but you will look at one as the means to the other and it won’t be so bad.
But most of all, it means being true to yourself, trying your best, and most importantly, feeling good about what you’re doing.