A cheetah lashes out across sub-Saharan Africa with its stealthy focus on a small hare, half a kilometre away. It weaves through the brush with precision, never wavering its gaze as it nears its prey. The hare senses danger. Ears prick. Alert and motionless. The hunt accelerates with intensity as imminent Success and Failure loom for one or the other.
If the cheetah somehow misses his mark, the hare has triumpantly cheated death and the cheetah has failed. If the opposite prevails, success be to the cheetah. But either way, Success and Failure are based on Man’s definition because according to Nature, this hare-raising moment is part of the natural order.
Nature & Human Nature. Success & Failure. Somewhere through time the definitions of the S&F words became intertwined, and then misaligned.
Once upon a time there was neither Definition nor Separation. Nature existed as an ongoing experience. Life-in-Motion. Then came Man, slicing into Life and then interpreting, chiselling, quantifying and qualifying it. He chipped away at its meaning with his thinking-mind full of choices that confined.
Sometimes thinking becomes our nemesis when we lose sight of our intuitive intelligence.
In the mid 17th century Man invented a marvelous verbal instrument which would assault our sense-of-self till doom-do-we-part. Failer. This Anglo Norman word has become synonymous with every lack, fault, inability, and deficiency attributed to the Man-Against-Nature lingo that’s driven us nearly to the edge.
Because Man needs rebels and allies and competition and taking sides, he also needed to invent Failure’s counterpart. Success.
In the early 1500’s the word “Success” simply referred to whatever came next chronologically. No implication of positive or negative achievement, merely time-related events. Soon thereafter, the meaning changed … which would forever change us by branding its “good or bad” into mythic proportion. By the late 16th century, the notion of a ruling or royal family’s succession became etched into contemporary vernacular along with its striving for grand reward at the price of treacherous loss.
Today Succeeding is being edged out by Exceeding. Once you hit your stride, you’re expected to strive … higher, broader, deeper, longer. This is not thriving, it’s slowly nosediving, and demising.
Extreme Succeeding is a deadly sport. Many have found sick-sess at the hands of success.
So perhaps it’s time to reword our Mind and redefine — because if Success makes you ill it probabaly won’t fulfill.
For most of my life Success was attributed to external goals of which I had plenty— lofty, fertile, overtly ambitious ones. I wanted to be Captain Kirk’s wife when I was five (I could help him navigate the Starship Enterprise toward calmer universal waters, episode by episode) … or to be the next Carl(a) Jung (Carl needed a female alter ego) when I was 19 … and to be the first novice in Space when I was 28 (god bless Sally Ride on that bold, one-way mission). Threaded throughout these “dream” jobs was my reality — working many odd jobs (salesclerk, secretary, dog walker, proof reader etc.) before hitting a thud with full on ex-halt.
There is nothing wrong with any of these jobs. Maybe they’re not special or their success-potential exceptional — but the problem was that none of them inspired me. They “merely” provided for me. And drained me. And slowly drowned me.
For the time being, societal structures don’t enable everyone to do what they love for a living.
But living is also about doing what you love.
Throughout my life I’ve vascillated between the practical versus the implausible — the push-pull of my parent’s oppositional wills. I excelled at each of my disparate jobs, yet being successful at them was also an odd failure. They failed to nourish a hunger; not for “more” but for “MEaning”.
By lifting anchor and moving offshore to Passionate water (with an international endeavour that so sparked my imagination it spanned continents, time zones, decades and implausibility), I became lit from within. I was not invincible but I was adaptable — able to handle fluctuations that would otherwise derail me.
Despite the daunting breadth of my unprecedented global initiative (and its potential for “failure”), the fact that it sprouted from a soul-filled wellspring that is deeply Me, sustains me. When the seeds for success emanate from organic inspiration they can carry you far beyond any notions of Failure, as they have with my 30 year topsy-turvy journey.
Regular work pays the bills but work that uplifts seeds the Soul. When you experience the latter, the pitfalls of the former become less important.
Adapting to societal mores about Success or Failure may be part of the Human contract. But how we personalise their definition lies in individual interpretation. One can better ride “failures” by redefining “success” and expanding it to something less restrictive, more mysterious and intuitive.
Here are my threebies:
- Redefine Success from the inside out, by embedding it with a dash of Soul. Shift the emphasis from purely external barometers to enriching internal ones. The interior will eventually boost the exterior and boomerang back, each one miraculously fuelling and feeding into the other. Observe Nature to unwind, rewind, and remind us that Human Nature is birthed from Nature and not vice versa. Nature blessedly has no definitions of Success (or Failure). Can we accept that?
- Remain open to finding your passion. Address it. Seed it. Then be it — even if just for a daily minute. Like a shock absorber, it builds a network of internal joy which buoys the bumpiness associated with the Human Ride. Learning one’s inherent worth and consistently supporting it deflects the outer world’s harsh judgements; enabling one to feel “failure” differently … less intimately. Feeding one’s (healthy) passion fuels the soul. It’s a remarkably validating form of success which is infectious. It spreads virally to others, who become more relaxed in the presence of our own fulfilled state and encourages them to cultivate this state in kind (we’re all unique but still a communal species, very much entwined consciously and unconsciously).
- Find what you love and love what you do, but don’t let it define you. Beyond the material rewards of a material world is an “other” realm that informs our mysterious parallel existence. But this murky world is still unaddressed in the Modern World. So whatever perceived Success or Failure one experiences, we’re endowed with a vast Beyond that has no measure.
Human Nature crafted rules, terms, structures and standards by which civilisation would evolve independent of Nature … and full of polarity. Human Nature inbred the notion of Success and its counterpart, Failure. The world which is manufactured by Man has branded disappointment, disharmony, and dis-ease into a lucrative industry. But we are more than merely Man. We are also spiritual manifestations — housed in a form called the body, trapped in a mind that is ripped from its heart, and ill-informed about the material world we temporarily inhabit … and the spiritual one which inhabits us.
The manmade world has created a double-edged “s’word” called Success. The way to live it in balance is by letting its definition speak out of both sides of our (Nature & Human Nature) mouth.
Manmade Success is incumbent with Failure. But the Spiritually-induced brand is made eternal.
Originally published at medium.com