I was going to be all clever, and start this post with a dictionary definition of “success…” Then I realised that really that would be stupid, since the whole point of this post is that whether or not you are successful depends on your definition of success.
I used to work for a pension company. I was there for six years, during which time I got promoted, was taken on a free trip to Spain, given an award for “thinking outside of the box,” got all sorts of fancy pants stuff thrown at me, and probably could have gone on to… whatever “successful” people in that industry do. My point is that to all intents and purposes, I looked successful. I had a nice house, a gym membership, a personal trainer, lots of stuff
. Until I had a massive nervous breakdown
, and walked away from it. People thought I was bonkers when I ended up moving out of my house and giving away hundreds of pounds’ worth of things, but to me it felt like the only sensible option. Like that line from Fight Club:
the things you own end up owning you.
I ended up going back to pensions, because I had no idea what I wanted to do. When I was made redundant, I was over the moon. To me, that was the universe saying “you idiot, I’ve already told you once that this is not for you!”
Success is not the same for everyone.
I’ve a friend who left a job working in the City for a massive company where she earned a fortune but was never at home, to run her own business locally where she can spend more time with her daughter. Her neighbour keeps bringing her application forms for jobs in massive multinationals; he doesn’t understand why she wouldn’t want to be in that sort of work if she could.
For you, success might be being a manager at your local supermarket. For someone else, success might be opting out of society completely and being totally self reliant. For some, success looks like being a stay at home parent whose children are home schooled.
For me, success is to have a weekly column in a national newspaper or magazine. It’s taken me a long while to even realise that was what I wanted to do because I bought into other people’s idea of what success meant. Earn lots of money, buy lots of stuff. Like that episode of Friends where Chandler realises he cares about the WENUS.
When I finally realised/admitted to myself that what I wanted to do with my life was to be a writer, it was like everything just sort of slotted into place. I left education and entered the world of work when I was 19. Each time I got a new job, it was always with the thought that “I’ll just do this until I figure out what I really want to do…” I ended up working in pensions for nine years because I thought the office job and the promotions and the annual bonus and all the crap was “success.” It wasn’t.
This post has become a little rambly and disjointed, but my point is this:
If you don’t know what your version of success looks like, you will never know when you get there!
If you don’t know what success means to you – what it truly means, not what you’ve been educated to believe it is – then you’ll never end up doing what you really want to be doing.
And don’t worry if you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up; I was 32 before I made the decision. There’s always time to change and start afresh. Otherwise, what will you think of yourself, when you get to your death bed?
I’m going to go ahead and suggest that if you’re not happy, you’re not successful. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing for work; if it doesn’t make you happy, it’s not the right thing for you.
Furthermore, if you have children, what are you teaching them? It’s all very well sticking it out in a job you hate so that you can afford big Christmas presents and an annual holiday somewhere nice, but what are you teaching your children about life? That you have to do shitty things that you hate so that you can have a shiny car and lots of crap. Isn’t it better to teach them that they can do whatever they want, and that happiness isn’t something you can only experience for 2 weeks a year when you manage to negotiate time off work for a holiday? Wouldn’t it kill you to fast-forward 20 years and find your children wasting away their lives in a job that made them thoroughly miserable? Wouldn’t you rather teach them that they can do whatever they want, as long as it makes them happy?
What are you waiting for? Much like the decision to have children, there will never be a perfect time to quit your crappy job and go and find the one you want. That day will never come.
So go and follow your dreams, whatever they are. Life is too short not to, and it’s better for everyone if you are happy in the short time you spend on this planet.