Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thought for the Day - The Meaning of Success

'Success' - is the standard answer for what one is searching for in life. Especially when one is out of college, or still young, this one word seems like magic. 'Success' depicts to us a frequency where we can tune into wealth, fame, power, endless travel, beautiful people, the high life. Pretty much all the things we see in movies and glossies and ads are accessible with this one word 'success'. When I speak to students sometimes I ask them this question about what they would like to get out of their MBAs and other degrees and most give me this magic word 'success'.

But 'success' is a loosely defined word. It becomes what you think it is. It could be the multi storey building or a small plot of farmland with cattle. It becomes imperative to think of what it means to us, honestly. Surprisingly most do not seem to have very hard opinions of 'success'. Some money, a reasonably good job, starting a business, travel across the world, some cars, maybe a private jet...and somewhere here the steam runs out. So I make it mandatory to define what success means to each one and then it becomes clear that our concepts of 'success' have been borrowed from all else. So what do we want really?

Not for everyone enjoys earning and piling up money. Not everyone likes the spotlight. Not everyone likes endless travel. Not everyone is comfortable with high end stuff. Not everyone likes jobs that are highly demanding and responsible. Not everyone wants houses all over the place. Most in fact have modest dreams, of small houses close to nature, of starting a school, of spending time with family, of small family trips and gatherings, of friends, of small business ideas doing well and offering sustenance and a form of expression. They would like a happy family, a healthy life, a hobby they enjoy, a job or business that pays well enough, a house at some point etc. Few have ambitious plans and the energy to drive them.

To me success is about using all you have, your time and energy, to express yourselves the best. That would seem vague, but what I am saying is that if you pursued a particular skill that you have chosen to develop, academic or artistic, have figured out that your spirit seems to merge somehow when you do that, when you 'know you are good at it', then, by giving your best shot at it, you would most often find all that 'success' means coming to you. To say it simply, as an accountant or a salesman or an IT pro or a businessman or a musician or a player or a coach or whatever, if you keep at it because you love it for long enough, constantly seeking improvement in small measures, you are bound to travel the world, to make your money, to earn your fame and improve your self-esteem as an expert in your area of choice. It gives an identity, one that you are proud of. That to me is success, doing what you love, for a long enough time to be the expert at it and leveraging it to gain all else you wish materially.

The big question often is how does one find what one enjoys doing for such a long period of time, for the rest of your life. Look back into your life and find out what you loved doing, what you got praised for, what you spent most of your time doing, and then you will see that nothing has gone waste. It is easy to see. If it is not, close your eyes, ask yourselves what you would love to do the most for the rest of your life, and then do it with all your heart and mind, devoting time and energy to it, with awareness and without fear of consequences. People have built amazingly successful careers out of fried chicken, retailing, fashion, shoes, education....whatever. The only thing is that they have been passionate about being the best. It was never about following what others did, it was always about doing what you think is best, even if it means taking the foot off the gas pedal and slowing down, going to small towns, taking time of, but doing things out of choice.

Being passionate does bring you accolades. Being the best can give you deep satisfaction and the admiration of peers. That is ruled by the heart. On the other side is the mind. The one that urges a balance between immense awareness and flights of creation - the one that can ground you really when it comes to signing the contracts. This is the key. You must be able to put a worth on yourself, to market yourself in the terms of exchange, money. You must see ways of marrying commerce to your talent. It is the job of the mind. And anyone can do it. It is merely telling yourself to knock out the ego, the sham of being 'good' and 'gracious'. Like Ray Charles, one of the best blues musicians ever and an astute businessman would say, 'use the country bumpkin innocence' to get what he wants. He'd play the fool but he'd always ask for the moon. No one will take the responsibility to market your skill so find your way to do it.

'Success' then comes in two parts and one must take responsibility for both. To do what one wants really requires passion and that is a function of the heart, and to use it as a means of exchange one must be aware to opportunity, and that is a function of the mind. When they both come together, 'success' brings true contentment and becomes meaningful not just to the individual, but to society at large too. Teachers who can think of schools, thinkers who can take ideas out, artists who can showcase and protect culture, leaders who can make a difference, anything is possible if our idea of 'success' gets clearer in our head.


ಭಾಶೇ said...

Amazing thought. Thank you.

This thought should be inculcated into the minds of teachers and parents of below 16 years kids, so that the talent those kids have is identified and nurtured.

At that age we don't know what life is and end up making a lot of mistakes. With this mindset, being clear on what we want in our lives gets easier.

Harimohan said...

Thanks. Its difficult at a young age one understands - and one always seeks that guru who can guide. The parents, teachers and the education system are ideally the ones to give pointers here. Sadly even after the PG level the youth are ill equipped to make decisions which is one reason to make some changes in the form of interventions to the system.