November 11, 2021

Success

We view success as a measure of what we can get from life. But we’ll always be unfulfilled if we think that way. It’s about knowing that we’re going to leave one day. And success is being able to empty yourself when you’re here, so when you’re gone, you had nothing left to give. It’s temporary and we had a moment – Nipsey Hussle

What do we consider a successful person?

A couple of things come to mind:

1.) Someone who certainly has money. This is definitely the easiest way to gauge success. Anybody who has been able to earn a substantial amount of money by his or her own hand is considered a success. Money is the number one valued commodity in this world. Money makes the world go round.

2.) Someone who has autonomy and independence. For example, someone who has started a business that is self-sufficient. Even if it is not extraordinarily successful, by operating their own business they have a certain level of independence that an employee does not have.

3.) Someone who has accomplished a physical or mental endeavour that may seem implausible to us. Maybe someone who has run a marathon, or completed an iron-man, or someone who plays high-level sports. Maybe someone who has written a book, or learned how to master an instrument.

There are plenty of other people who we consider successful. Maybe the guy who is able to get lots of girls or the girl who has a million followers. The typical definition of a successful person is someone that does something that most people find desirable and on some level wish they could do themselves. It is obvious there are different areas of success and different people view success differently. It is rare but possible that someone is successful in every area of their lives (success in terms of the typical way people see success). If someone had lots of money, independence, and has accomplished remarkable both physical and mental feats – they certainly would be considered very successful.

There is one common denominator in all successful people. That is action. Consistent focused action towards a goal more precisely. This generally results in what we consider a successful person. However, I don’t buy the usual definition of success. There are too many successful people who receive praise for their accomplishments but feel uncomfortable because for some reason that even they can’t understand, they’re still not content.

I mentioned sustained action towards a goal is the one common denominator for all successful people. I would just need to add one word in order to describe what I think is a truly successful person. Consistent focused peaceful action towards a goal is the one common denominator for all successful people.

Because if you take out the peace, then what do you have? You can have someone who struggles and who fights with life in order to achieve great things. Lots of people do this. They get to success by brute force and sheer determination. And we applaud them all the same.

They may make a ton of money and have all the time in the world. They may be physical specimens and developed incredible will power and discipline over their minds. But if you take out the peace, and I don’t want it. Is any of this worth it if it does not also come with a quiet heart.

This is a great misconception today. That success is simply what you accomplish. No. It is how you accomplish it.

This is why these incredibly ‘successful’ people still suffer with anxiety and depression and commit suicide. In our definition of success, they have it all. And yet that is where the problem lies. For all of us, we still have something to strive for. We tell ourselves that once we have this amount of money, or create flexibility in our lives – we will finally be happy and content. We still attach ourselves to a goal – to something we still have not achieved.

But what happens when we have all of that and more and we’re still unhappy. What if everyone expects us to be happy because we have everything and they criticize us for not being grateful? What if there are no more goals to be reached? No more steps in the ladder? Then what?

Well, then you're fucked.

We have an innate desire to accomplish things in this world. There are those who state they are content living a more simplistic life. Not to say that it isn’t possible and there aren’t those who that is true for. But for others, as I can relate it to, I wonder if it is fear and doubt that is preventing us from even trying. Fear can be paralyzing. Sometimes it’s easier to pretend that we’re content to just exist without really living. Only that person will truly know.

Why is it that we know something logically, yet cannot put it into practice? We know that the means is more important than the destination. The process more imperative than the goal. We all have access to the ultimate truth but it becomes clouded and covered by a time-dominated narrative.

We have a finite number of years to live on this planet, and we have created something called age. Essentially, it is a countdown to our death. We feel it is our responsibility to get ahead of time. We want to be ultra-efficient, master of our productivity, taking action always with a purpose.

We want to beat time. Because we measure our lives in years, and our years in days, and days in minutes – we feel like a wasted minute is a waste of life. And so we cram our calendars full of appointments, and meetings and when we’re not busy – we’re responding to emails or making phone calls or going for lunches. We’re just seeking out something to do in order to stay busy and feel productive.

Productive for what? For success? Have we even considered what success means to us? And not the superficial answer of money, or career progression. Even if we convince ourselves that success means autonomy and independence, what does that even mean? So what, we have more time. Time for what? That so we can choose our own schedule? So what? We can’t seek out superficial answers. We need to be honest with ourselves. What is it that we truly want?

The true dance of success is to balance the doing with the being. Action still has to happen. Ceasing action (as some people do) because we acknowledge the insanity of a time dominated society does not make us morally or spiritually superior. We can still create goals and aspire to achieve during these years we have on this planet. But if what we do causes a disconnect with what is happening inside of us, than our doing can never be successful.

Michael Bains

Currently 31, he lives in the Yaletown district of Vancouver. He enjoys staying physically active and is an avid reader and writer. Hooped is his first published novel.