I am starting to get pretty tired now of “motivational” articles that seem to be churned by an AI machine rearranging the words of a self-help business book: “3 things to do to optimize your success”. “10 things all successful CEOs have in common”. “How to find your calling”. It just goes on and on and I felt compelled to respond to this, because I find this obsessive approach we sometimes have towards success quite damaging, not to mention literally soul-wrenching, anxiety-inducing and with the potential to actually demotivate and disorient people away rather than towards success.
I am also writing this because at some point in my career I reached a place where success became more of an addiction and a goal rather than something exciting, personal, and yes, exhilarating! Because exhilarating is how it should feel, right? One thing I learned was that all along, the type of success that I needed was not the type of success I was going for. So low and behold, I am sharing with you what I have learned from my career so far (which isn’t a lot really! Watch for an update)
Success of Who? What?
Let’s just get one thing out of the way. Success is not about career success necessarily. I envy people who, may not have much money, but keep themselves busy with things meaningful to them, or have a vast network of friends and communities that gives them a sense of purpose and connection to the world. They are having meaningful, rich lives, with every single second that passes. They touch others and have real impact on lives around them and vice versa. Success is what makes you happy, what makes you yourself, it is as simple as that
It won’t come from others
Similarly, don’t look for respect from others to validate your success, I have made that mistake too. Look for it in yourself first, be your own harshest critic and you’ll find out so much more about what success means to you specifically. Bosses and colleagues are probably the worst people to use as a compass for how successful you are, as much as they determine your promotion and progression. And this is because their view of the world, and their view of you in particular, has nothing to do with you and everything to do with them. It’s just how it is. This is a good point to always remember so that you don’t take feedback from others too seriously. Their opinions of you are their problem, not yours. I love the example of the Harry Potter series, a book that was rejected 13 times before it got published. It is a great example that illustrates how others’ feedback is irrelevant.
Make sure you Fuck up. A lot
Every time I had a downturn, bad moment, in my career or otherwise, it has ended up quickly morphing into a blessing: a new door opening while another one closed, a re-consideration of my wider options, a skill I thought I never had, all these things came to me because of failure. So I advise that you embrace, almost seek out failure. Take risks, fuck up. Something great will come out of it as long as you are open to take in the learnings. It is no secret that challenging situations in life often make us completely reconsider our values, what is important to us, and therefore our own definition of success in the first place. Dramatic events in our life can often be a lightbulb moment, telling us we have either been going the wrong way about achieving our goal, or even that this goal never even mattered to us that much in the first place.