The High Price Of Success


Success is a strange concept. Quite often it is equated with extravagant monetary targets. So much so, in fact, that other more pragmatic definitions get lost in the shuffle. In case you have not guessed, I am not among those who believe success is the amassing of wealth and earthly goods. I would venture to say that most people have not given a personal definition to success or spent much time pondering the subject. Why bother stewing on a tough concept like this when society readily provides us with a formula.

 Success = Work hard, get rich.

 Where do I start? Those who know me well, understand that I am a non-conformist. I don’t veer off the beaten path just for the sake of being different, it is really that I just happen to personally be at odds with following the direction of mainstream society. What gives me joy happens to be non-mainstream pursuits. As I often do in these missives, let me state that this is no way a judgement of people that do not follow my path, it is merely a reflection on the path I have taken and why. Whew. I am glad to get these disclaimers up early, don’t want some of my anonymous friends taking umbrage at me more than needed. 🙂

 What has this got to do with success? I think it was important to establish that the criteria of success is not very well defined by the masses, and there is certainly as many definitions as there are people. Most people have simply not outlined the details of what success would mean to them, let alone a realistic plan to achieve it; this is just the way Western Society operates. Auto-pilot mode. We are indoctrinated with iamges and concepts very early how success is the pursuit of wealth and fame. I debunk that definition. I have defined my own criteria; I wanted to make a road map for my journey.  Simply put my definition of success is:

 “Live a life with a healthy work/life balance that allows me the time and energy to do the activities that bring me joy and fulfilment as a human being. Self actualize by endeavouring to learn something new everyday about myself and those around me. Be respectful of others and leave a positive footprint on the people, organizations, and environments I interact with.”

 Imagine my surprise when recently I reflected on this definition and realized I am by and large successful. I am not a boastful person, I do not like to jump on a sopabox and proclaim “look at me”. I am outgoing in so much as I like to share my joys and passions for life with all around me. I have done what I set out to do. I did not want to wait for my retirement and then reflect on joyful things and then forge a direction to bring them into my life. I am doing that now. This may come across as a “Yay me, I am awesome speech”, but that is not the intent. I am happy, I feel like I am in a great place in my life and I think it shows.

This is where I take this blog entry in a different direction. I like success, I celebrate it. I celebrate it in my own life and I laude others that have grab that rightful chalice that is everyone’s for the taking. When I see someone who is truly content with who they are and where they are in life, it has a very positive, motivating effect on me. I am calmed and enriched. I see them as successful and I feel joy through osmosis.

 This is not always the case with people though.  I have learned that one of the by-products of success is that it sometimes offers a dark contrast to a person struggling to find it for themselves. Instead of a motivating, enriching effect, it elicits a response of negativity. This has been an important lesson for me. I like to think of myself as a kind and generous soul, so you can imagine my puzzlement when my own success draws a sarcastic or vehement response from a friend, acquaintance, or colleague. At first, I was completely befuddled why someone would have such a negative reaction to something I am saying or doing, especially if it had 0% impact on them. It was my darling better half that pointed out that by defining myself and what I am about, it may have the side effect of reminding others that they have not done that for themself. It may, in their minds, draw emphasis to their own insecurities or lack of direction. I am not competing in a race of life. I do not view any one else’s achievements as a diminishment of me. Odd how so many people compete on this scale though. Odd, and, to be honest, sad. 🙁

 I am not a Doctor, but I do believe in part of the Hippocratic Oath: “Primum non nocere”. That Latin phrase translates to “First Do No Harm”. I have adapted that into my own personal code and part of my criteria for success, which is that I wish to have a positive footprint on the people I touch.

Imagine, if you can, my dismay when I realized that by living these values openly and honestly, I have indeed had the opposite effect on some of my friends. Wow. That is a downer. This has happened most vividly with a one of my friends. The more I share excitement about what I am doing or some event I am planning, the more negative response I elicit. The competitive spirit has been awakened in this person and grows stronger with every initiative I undertake. I have tried to create some joint projects we can both work on so we can have a feeling of mutual success, but alas, those too, get met with sarcasm or mild disdain. This realization for me has been quite disturbing. I cherish my friends, ALL of them. I am not competing. I am not judging others on their journey. Perhaps to diffuse the competion I need to have some monumental public failures so those whose happiness is gauged on a scale compared to people around them can move up in the race standings. Odd concept, isn’t it?Another quote comes to mind:

 “To avoid criticism do nothing, say nothing, be nothing.” … Elbert Hubbard US author (1856 – 1915)

I am involved in a lot of activities. I love them all. I organize Road Hockey, Boardgame nights, Boardgame Leagues, Poker Leagues, Dart Leagues, Dinner nights, and various and sundry other social events and gatherings. I do not do these things to appear important, I really have a deep enjoyment of gathering with friends and engaging in fun activities. This is part of the conundrum, I believe this accelerated pace of social activity and planning has drawn contrast to the fact that my friend has many ideas and plans that do not proceed and hence, I have accentuated an insecurity. I have become a “go to” person and an authority for social engineering in our group. I think part of the competition may stem from the transition to be a go”to” person for anumber of things. It is possible that I usurped a role that someone else may have had. In any regard, I need to figure out a way to turn this negativity into something creative. His sarcasm and negativity does not manifest in an open confrontational way, just an insidious undercurrent to our conversations and interactions.

 I do not sit on a throne and rule a kingdom of activity in a dictatorial manner. I share all my tools and resources openly. I invite collaboration, I encourage others to pursue their interests and draw upon the vast collection of friends we have harnessed in order to pursue the things that bring them joy. I offer words and deeds of support for anyone walking that journey. This is mostly respected and appreciated. My meagre declaration of success has been enjoyed and celebrated by many and I cherish all of them; for the few that have had their inner beast of insecurity awakened, I feel sorrow. I am sorrowful that they feel diminished by what I have achieved. I feel even worse that I am the catalyst. “Primum non nocere” dictates that I must pull back and limit the damage I cause. Everyone has their own journey. Perhaps someday they will feel more like toasting the exploits of some fool who enjoys living life as a boy whose simple task is to keep the art of play alive every day. It is my hope that they will trade derision and sarcasm for joy, appreciation, and encouragement.  I invite all to share the sweet wine of the contentment I feel. I am blessed by my friends and family; they are the largest steps in my stairway to success.

 “Few men have the natural strength to honour a friend’s success without envy.” -Aeschylus

 “A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.” -Bob Dylan

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