What does success mean to you? What does it encourage you to do? Is it making loads of money? Having a big house? Being healthy? Having a lovely family relationship? Having kids? Doing what you love? Living somewhere remote on your own? Having an exciting and thrilling career? What is it that you associate with success? What’s the first thought that comes up?
My first reaction was having money. Loads of it. Being wealthy and rich. And then I thought to myself “Is it? Are money and wealth the definition of success? Or is it something implanted by the news I watch, the video I see, and the people I speak to?” That thought sparked the idea of this story.
When you go online and search for success the first things you’ll see is how to get rich, or how to get successful in life. Which in turn also is about money. It isn’t strange for us, to think of success as having a lot of money and being wealthy. It’s something shared graciously all over the media, the internet, and social groups. And it’s always a great idea to question that belief for yourself. Especially now that wealth is more of a status symbol than it is a way of living the good life. When I think of wealth I see people in suits, with big mentions, fancy cars, suitcases of printed money, private jets, cigars, and all the luxury items one can have. There is one thing these have in common, they are all material things. They are all focused on material and financial success and wealth. Never on health success or lifestyle success.
And that’s why I was second-guessing myself when my first answer was “money” to the question of what success meant to me. Because yes wealth is part of a great life, we do not want to worry about having too little money, but the point is that money is a small portion of the entire feeling of success.
“The greatness of a man is not in how much wealth he acquires but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively.” ~ Bob Marley
This is one of the quotes that keeps circling in my mind when I think of wealth, success, and personal greatness. Yes, money is great to have, but it’s not the most important thing in one’s life.
Part One: Define Greatness & Success
What is your definition of greatness? Of success? After giving it some thought, success and greatness to me mean to enjoy life. It has nothing to do with owning vast amounts of money or material things. It’s the beauty of enjoying the morning sunrise or seeing the steam flow gently from a fresh cup of coffee or tea. It’s laughing with friends and cooking myself a delicious diner. That to me is success. It’s completely different from what everything I consume on the internet is telling me. Which shows me money, big villas, or expensive cars, which I really don’t care about. Yes, I would love to have a beautiful home, maybe multiple one day, but they don’t need to be villa’s, and I most certainly don’t care about expensive cars. To me, these things have nothing to do with happiness, with the joy of living. To you, they might.
The important thing is to get this straight for yourself. What does success mean to you? What does it mean to live a great life? To feel your personal greatness? Often it’s not about the physical things, but more about how you feel. About being confident, joyous, happy, compassionate, kind, loving, courageous. All the things we can’t obtain, but can only feel. I feel that this is the misconception with success. It is defined in things we own, in things we can see, when in truth it’s all about a deep feeling inside. It’s about feeling successful, and great about your life. Not about having the things that can prove to others that you are successful. Obama had a great little rant on this. Which I adore, he said something in the following terms.
If you are truly rich, you don’t need to wear a million-dollar diamond chain around your neck. If you are truly confident about your sexuality you don’t need to have 10 girls twerking their naked bums around you. If you are truly confident, truly wealthy you wear a plain white shirt. Why? Because you know that you are wealthy and confident, you don’t need to prove it to the world.
That to me defines success and personal greatness. It’s something only we can experience for ourselves. And if we want to prove to the world that we are confident, it means we aren’t. For proving something comes from a lack within you. If I want to prove to you how great I am, I would share with you all my success. Yet I know that there are a dozen more failures, and problems to go with the successes. So the question shouldn’t be how you can be successful in the wealthy term of the word success but the feeling side of the word.
What to you does it feel like to be successful? That has made all the difference to me. Do you feel confident when you are successful? And why do you feel confident? Do you feel happy when you are successful and why? These are the real questions we should ask to define our success, to define our personal greatness. I feel that this is done too little, and shared too little. Because it isn’t sexy to talk about the way you feel. It’s confronting and often painful. Yet the people we adore in society are those who defined success by who they were to the world, not the things they owned, or the things they did. It’s people like Nelson Mandela that I look up to. Not because he owned a lot, nor because of his action. His actions to free and unite the African people with the white dominant people at that time was a marvelous act. But it isn’t why I look up to him. It’s his compassion, his kindness, his patience, his vision, and most of all his humanity. He was human like you and me. He was pure and felt alive. That to me is success and that is why we look up to these people.
So before continuing how would you define your greatness, your own success in terms of feeling and being, instead of owning and doing? That’s where the first section of the key to success and personal greatness lies.
Part Two: Strive For Less
Let me give you this. It’s hard to strive for more, but harder to strive for less. Now read that again. It’s hard to strive for more, but harder to strive for less.
During my college years, all I cared about was doing more. Proving that I was worthy. I worked my ass off in the group projects we did. Often staying at school till 7 pm with my group, when all the other groups had left at 3 pm. That tells something about the group, and about me. That we always pushed for the best, for more. I love that side of me. I love it to push for more, to always be the best at something, and to go at it 100%. Yet in the last year, I’ve come to understand the beauty of the balance between striving for more and striving for less.
Say for example that you have a dream to get a million followers on Instagram. It’s a big dream, something to strive for. You start with striving for 10 thousand followers, and the moment you obtain that you strive for 20 thousand, then 30, and onwards you go. Up to a million. You are always striving for more, and you are never satisfied. It’s the way I felt when striving for something. When I had a goal in mind. That striving for more makes you unsatisfied, and being unsatisfied isn’t associated with success for me.
Living a successful and great life, to me, is about enjoying what I have. Enjoy the mundane things in life. It is about enjoying the road, not the goal. But by always striving for more, the enjoyment of having it all quickly faded away. There was always something new in-store. Something to go for next. That’s not a great way to live, it’s a stressful, and impersonal way to live. If your goal in life is to reach goals, your life will eventually become empty. Why? Well, at some point the goals you want to achieve will feel dull and similar. It’s at this point that most people will start to realize that a successful life has never been about the goal. That’s where I think striving for less comes around the corner.
It’s about the balance of striving for more and striving for less, that makes us feel successful. We strive for a big goal, for those millions of followers on Instagram, yet by just striving for the followers we forget to enjoy the little things. But if we then strive for less. If we know that our goal is those millions of followers, we can start to enjoy more of the little things. The things that we don’t need to strive for. We can enjoy the simple improvements we make over the things we create, we can enjoy reading a book, or going for a walk. That goal, those millions of followers is just something to aim for, but it is the things we do to get there, the road we walk that will make us feel successful. See, again I used the word feeling, it proves yet again that success is a feeling.
Striving for less is harder than striving for more. That is because striving for less invites you in to be content with everything you have. And being content with what you have is confronting. It feels stagnating maybe, or dull. It might feel worthless to enjoy each morning you wake up. It’s s normal thing, right? That’s the point, we take things for granted whilst these things we take for granted are often the things we enjoy the most. Let alone that these ordinary things happen daily, the successes only happen every once in a while. Striving for less also means you focus on the few things you like to do. Yes, we can do everything, we can paint, and write, and dance, and be a gardener all at the same time, but wanting to do all of them professionally will not make you happy. Instead of focusing on just one of them, like writing, and doing it the best you can makes you happy. It’s less that makes us happy, not more.
By striving for more, and setting goals for yourself, you have something to work for, you have a goal in life. Which is always a great thing to have. It gives your life purpose and value. But by striving for less at the same time, by striving to enjoy the little things you have each day, you allow yourself to enjoy each day of the journey. That’s the second part of the key to success. Striving for less.
Part Three: The Key To Greatness
There is just one more part to the key to success. Of living a great life. I feel this might just be the most important. It’s the one that most people overlook. What is it? It’s the ordinary, the everyday life we live. It’s from the ordinary things that extraordinary arises. Pablo Picasso was an ordinary man, that painted each day for hours, to him painting was an ordinary habit, yet from the ordinary, his greatness arose. He mastered his craft, he enjoyed it, he created work that till this day is cherished and sold for millions of dollars.
This I feel is the glue that sticks together with the other two parts of a successful life. It is enjoying and indulging yourself in the ordinary parts of life that will make you arise as extraordinary. I know that It doesn’t sound fairytale-like. It might even sound like a horror story to you. That you will have to be ordinary in order to be extraordinary. All you want to do is have an amazing life each day. Flying jets, traveling the world, being wealthy, enjoying life each day, being different than the rest, and all the good things we are gifted in life. It is a bummer to hear that life doesn’t become extraordinary because of these things. It’s the ordinary day-to-day life, that makes these extraordinary things stand out.
If we would fly a private jet each day, without appreciating it each time we fly, the jet will become ordinary as well. Whilst for many flying a private jet will forever remain an extraordinary dream of success. I have found that the last few months of my life have been quite ordinary. I go to work, then get back and write, I read, I create, I drink coffee with my mom. I spent time with friends, and don’t really do anything special. I don’t go on holiday to faraway countries. I don’t dive out of plains, or achieve my wildest dreams, yet. Still, I enjoy my life. I might even enjoy it all the more vividly. I can now cry overwriting a perfect line of poetry or seeing a simple dm from a follower. I can enjoy having a pizza with friends whilst watching a horror movie, and I can even enjoy taking a shit. It’s these ordinary things that we all go through even more during these periods of lockdown and social distancing. It makes this even more relevant right now than ever before.
Now isn’t that a wonderful life? To me it is. I enjoy the mundanity of life, just as much as I would enjoy a private jet flight. I have decided that success to me is all around me. It is hidden in the ordinary. The things I do every day. It is therefore that I have found the key to greatness. To live a successful life, a life to be proud of. Yes, I have big dreams and strive to reach the stars. But I keep my feet grounded in the enjoyment of my mundane and ordinary life. That balance stretches my enjoyment for life. Knowing that I enjoy the soil in which my feet stand, as well as the sight of the stars above my head. The two go together like a pen and paper, the pen alone would be useless, so would the paper be. They compliment each other, enrich each other, and create beautiful harmony together. And that to me is the key to greatness. The harmony of grounding myself in the beauty of the ordinary, whilst keeping my gaze at the stars, so that each day I can say Today I Lived. I loved how the stars twinkled and my heart pounded for the feeling of the cold soil underneath my feet. I made the most of it.
Thank you, dear reader. Have a lovely day.