Every Day is Saturday

Finding Joy in the Here and Now

Success As We Have Defined It

on January 21, 2014

Party on the Yacht

The other day I posted a quote attributed to the Dalai Lama on my Facebook page; I have since learned that it is actually from an author named David Orr, taken from his 1992 book  with the riveting title of “Ecological Literacy: Education and the Transition to a Postmodern World”.  The full and correct quote is this:

“The plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these qualities have little to do with success as we have defined it.”

This quote knocked the breath out of me when I read it, and I know from the comments and “shares” that it resonated with a lot of my friends as well.  The fact that I identified with it so strongly is the greatest testament to how far I have come.

Most of you who read my blog know my story, but on the off chance that someone out there is just now finding this, here it is in brief:  in June of 2010 I was let go from a job I loved very much. It was a complete shock, and I was devastated for a long time. I eventually decided I would attempt self-employment. I have started two companies, one with a partner and one on my own, that have been mostly unsuccessful. I published the journal I kept of the first year after my layoff. I started this blog last year. I joined some former colleagues in another independent business venture that is off to a good start.

Doesn’t sound like much, when you put it that way; three and a half years of my life in a paragraph.  But these events are just the markers, the things I can point to and say, “That’s what I’ve been doing”. The other story, the one that is about things you can’t touch or measure, is the important one.  I’ve spent a lot of time in this blog exploring that stuff, and it’s been helpful not only to see my thoughts in word form, but to have some of you tell me that what I have written spoke to you in some way.

I, like so many people, have worked very hard at being successful as our society has defined it.  For a long time after getting kicked off the corporate ladder my lack of “success” was shameful to me. There are still people in my life that, when I speak about what I’m doing, I’m careful to use the right buzzwords so that they will perceive me as being “successful” (at least relative to my recent past). But over time, particularly the last few months, the truth in David Orr’s quote has come home to me in a big way.

I must make a confession now.  I have a number of friends who are artists of various stripes who, in spite of their obvious talent, have never “made it”. Some of them have flirted with fame but haven’t quite broken through – and I must confess that even as I admired these people for not giving up, part of me always felt sorry for them. For a long time, I took what I considered to be “success” and imposed those expectations on the people who are the peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. And for a large part of my life, I turned my back on any calling I may have felt to be one of those people, too, in no small part because I didn’t want people to feel sorry for me in the same way.

Well, fuck that. I’m over it.

So to all of you out there who, in spite of the constant struggle and striving and rejection keep going, you who find joy in the act of creating and therefore create for its own sake, or to make yourself better at what you do for your own satisfaction – I envy you. I envy the fact that you have built a life that allows you to pursue your passions unhindered by restraints of your own making. You may get discouraged and depressed, but I tell you that you are living a life that others can only dream about.  There are millions of people who, having gotten caught up in the race to be a successful person, have built prisons of beautiful homes and new cars and the pursuit of style. Too late they wake up to see that none of it makes them happy, but they’re on the treadmill now and can’t get off.

I’m lucky – I’ve had three and a half years to get myself off of my own treadmill and see my life for what it is and what it can be. I’m not going to drop everything and run off into the blue – I actually enjoy the “work” I have chosen to do, and I’m doing it with people I love, so it is a gift and not a burden. The difference is that what I ultimately want has changed. I no longer want to be a “successful person”. I want to explore, and grow, and love, and LIVE.  And hopefully make the world a better place, even if it’s for only one other person.  That would be enough.

****************

Thanks for reading my blog!  If you want to know more about me and my journey, check out my book “Everyday is Saturday” on Kindle.  The book is part diary, part memoir, about the first year after I was laid off from my dream job.  I think it has something to say to anyone who is struggling with change.

photo credit: jwilly via photopin cc

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