"Just order a FREE copy of my book to find out"
We've all heard it. It seems to be popping up now more than ever before. Endless offers and propositions of "how to become successful in only 5 simple steps", get-rich-quick schemes, flab-to-abs in only 5 hours, the list could go on.
I had a sudden burst of inspiration and wanted to share this with you - and likewise, please share your thoughts.
What is success?
We all want to feel and be successful. But what exactly is success - and how do we achieve it?
Or perhaps a more important question might be – how do we define success?
Do we look to our bank balance, the size of our house, the quality of the material that our clothes are made from? Do we look to the recognition that we gain from the world around us, from the people we work with, our friends and family? Do we look to our trophy cabinet and qualifications?
Is someone who receives a bronze medal any less successful than someone who receives a gold medal? What about those that didn't even get a medal? Our society and culture seems accustomed to celebrating the achievements of those who have done well, those who have made it, but what about the celebration of those who have seemingly fallen short?
Take Virgin's ad campaign #BeTheFastest as just one example, that rides on the back of the fastest man on the planet, Usain Bolt. Do Virgin care about this man's success more than they do for the profits that they'll make from an increase in sales of broadband packages, probably not. But it goes to show how we, as a culture, look to people like Bolt as icons of success. We praise them, glorify them and put them on a pedestal.
Maybe the whole thing was a highly elaborate marketing strategy and he was actually groomed and trained by Virgin from the beginning... With a name like Bolt, who knows...
Success is in objectivity and subjectivity.
As unique individuals, we have unique ways of measuring and understanding what success is and how to achieve it. It's not so much a case of wrong and right, as to what makes you feel good. Maybe you value material things, maybe you value the quality and depth of your relationships with the people around you, or even simply being able to get out of bed on a morning.
Success to me might not necessarily be success to you. However, society does seem to have a shared or collective idea of what success is – more often than not, it is tied to financial prosperity. Money gives us the freedom to explore, do and buy the things that we like. It gives us the ability to manifest our dreams and desires. So naturally, we would look to those that have a lot of it as role models.
Success to a homeless person is raising enough money each day to get a bed for the night and something to eat. Success to a stock broker is doubling his investment. Success to a fireman is saving the lives of those trapped in burning buildings.
Success is in humility.
Why are the oceans so vast, so great? Because they place themselves below the streams and rivers. They humble themselves, and in their humility, they find their greatness. Their true potential.
I can't quite recall where I first heard this, or what the exact wording was, but it really puts things into perspective. It's something that I try to live my life by.
In the world of design (and the world in general), things can get quite heated with lots of big opinions and ideas about the way things should or shouldn't be. Which font or colour is best, which layout, which car, which musician. This is certainly a necessary part of our development as individuals and as a collective – debate and difference. If we all thought the same, if there wasn't an element of competition, life would be incredibly boring and we'd make little to no progress.
Success is in listening.
There are times at which reasoning and logic can shut down. People stop listening to one another and insist that their perspective or viewpoint is the most valid. Which doesn't necessarily mean that perspective isn't the best solution, but coming from that mindset and acting in that way doesn't usually facilitate progress.
The way that our society has designed and structured itself in a pyramid-like fashion actively promotes competition. To do better, to have more friends, more money. We see it in politics and government, we see it in families and groups of friends. People falling out, becoming bitter, resentful and even hateful towards one another simply through an unwillingness to listen and consider the other persons perspective as a valid point.
Through humility, we can avoid all unnecessary aggro and open a space for us to listen to each other, and to ourselves, henceforth creating more a more successful relationship, by being open and receptive to the value that other people have to share with us. Even if we might not agree completely, we can still listen with an open mind and respect another's thoughts.
By bringing this practice into our daily working lives, we can actively promote a more positive and open environment for ourselves and our colleagues to work in, allowing us to get more done and make progress, together.
Realising that you are successful – now
Success isn't a destination. Success is a state of mind, a state of being.
As cliché or idealistic as it might sound, it really is. The only thing in between you and success, is you. Are you breathing? Then you're successful. You're alive, and in being alive you have the opportunity to create, to do, think, explore, communicate and experience all that 'life' is and has to offer.
We often seem to think that being successful entails doing a specific set of things in a certain way. That if we don't get good grades at school, we have failed. That if we don't meet our parents expectations, we have failed. That if we don't drive a beamer, we have failed. That success is reserved only for a select few, and that it is generally unattainable by the masses.
As human beings, we all have flaws and imperfections. Myself included. I don't like heights. I'm terrified of performing or speaking to groups in public. I get frustrated by the sound of people eating loudly. At times I can't stand to look at what it is that I'm working on, because it's just not good enough. I'll spend hours faffing over it and sometimes get to the point where I want to give up completely, asking myself – what am I even doing here?
And it's in that moment, right there, where picking yourself up and carrying on forwards is more important than ever. It's those moments that define who we are as human beings, and who we're not. Why be ashamed of who you are? Why feel guilt for the expectations that you weren't able to meet? Why let those things hold you back from becoming who you truly are, who you truly want to be.
We do the best that we can – and that is enough.
It's absolutely essential to create a foundation that cultivates personal success and self-worth. To celebrate who we are as unique individuals. The gifts and talents that every single one of us have to offer. To appreciate people for who they are, both the good and the bad. We all have the potential for evil, and the potential for good. We all have the potential to create, and the potential to destroy.
We can't and never will be the best at everything all the time. We can't always have everything that we want, and quite often life will present us with situations that completely break our worlds apart. A passing relative, someone that we're in a relationship with leaving us, things that no amount of money, external validation or business acumen can solve.
As Einstein said, "if you judge a fish by it's ability to climb a ladder, it will forever be stupid."
We weren't all born to climb ladders. Some of us were born to sing, others to dance, others to tell stories, others to build bridges. There is no one-size-fits all solution, yet educational and political systems seem to demand that we fit into their guidelines – and that if we can't fit, we're either a criminal or a failure.
Rather than measuring your success or self-worth by the opinions or actions of those around you – start to acknowledge the amazing expression of awesomeness that you are.
Perhaps we can start to find success in the simple things. In the clean water that we have coming out of our tap, the food we have in our fridge and the warm house that we live in, that shelters us from the weather. Maybe we could find it in a smile that someone gives us as we walk by them on a morning, or in greeting the postman as he drops off the mail. All these seemingly small, insignificant things that are so easily taken for granted, but all add up to create what life actually is.
Remember the time you stopped to help someone who was struggling? One small act of kindness is all it could take to change the entire world, as that kindness is then passed on from one, to another, to another. The butterfly effect. When we give to others, without expectation, something quite profound takes place.
The world would not be the same place without you.
Onwards and upwards
If you're feeling stuck, or if life just doesn't seem to be giving you what you're asking for, maybe take a moment to stop and ask yourself - is this what I really need? Or is it what you've been led to think that you need? Slow things down and bring your life back to a state of simplicity.
Stand strong in the face of adversity. Be true to who you are and what you know is right for you. This is more important than ever as we navigate through these seas of uncertainty and times of change.
Be humble to others, for there will always be someone more or less fortunate, and one day you might need their help. The tables can turn at any moment, often when we least expect it.
Celebrate yourself, acknowledge your gifts and talents. Acknowledge the gifts and talents of others. Especially those who are quiet, who often go unnoticed. Make it known, tell them, show them, encourage them – and in doing so, you encourage yourself. Regardless of our differences in thought and opinion, skin colour, religion, race or social status.
None of these things change the ultimate reality that we are all human beings, with the same basic needs and desire to be successful, loved and appreciated.
Thank you for reading.
Please feel free to share your own thoughts and this post.