How to measure success?

Picture credits: Customer Success Association

If I ask you to google the meaning of a word ‘success’ I am sure you’re going to find many definitions of it. 

  1. the accomplishment of an aim or purpose
  2. a desired outcome of an undertaking
  3. the attainment of wealth and eminence
  4. or put simply, excellence

Success has become a very important part of our lives. And that’s why we are so fixated on becoming successful. It’s linked to how much money we earn, how powerful we are, how many powerful people we know, what university did we go to, how multi-tasking we are, what clothes we wear, what devices we own, etc. Alain De Botton, who is a brilliant philosopher (and one of my favourites) has rightly said that the most iconic question of the 21st century is nothing but “WHAT DO YOU DO?” and by that question we are obviously pointing out at each other’s careers. People who have all the things I have mentioned earlier in the paragraph leave no stone unturned in flaunting their success while people who implicitly believe they haven’t got the best job in the world try avoiding that question in every possible way. When we look at celebrities we tell ourselves ‘This is exactly what I want. These people are so successful. They have the best life ever.’ When we look at billionaires or millionaires we start believing that is what success is all about and therefore we make it our life’s purpose to accumulate as much wealth as possible. The thing is no one has an idea what success is like and what it should look like. Our biggest problem is that we decide if we are successful based on an the external things. We let societies, money, power, etc. define our life as successful. Guess what? We never feel successful. And sadly, we never will as long as our metrics of success are faulty.

Inner V/s Outer Scorecard

Warren Buffet who is an American investor, philanthropist, business tycoon and the CEO and chairman of Berkshire Hathaway once said, “The big question about how people behave is whether they’ve got an Inner Scorecard or an Outer Scorecard. It helps if you can be satisfied with an Inner Scorecard.” Majority of us look at an Outer scorecard, not an inner one and that’s exactly why we never feel satisfied or successful in our lives. We are constantly focused upon money, power, other people’s validations to define us; to define our levels of success. C H Cooley and Han-Joachim Schubert gave a name to this phenomenon and it’s called “Looking- Glass- Self”. They summed it up by a wonderful line: “I am not what I think I am. I am not what you think I am. I am what I think you think I am.” While it is important from time to time take into consideration other people’s good pieces of advice it is not an entirely good idea to rest our whole lives on what the world thinks how successful we are. If we are earning $1000 lesser than our friends and relatives does it mean we are poor and our lives are not as good as theirs? If we own only a single car or no car at all does it mean a vehicle is going to become one of the metrics of our success? Maybe we want to use public transportation because it saves up a lot of our time and contributes in saving the environment. It’s like we are always chasing what the next person has and until we get it we are a failure. 

Potential metrics of success

Since time immemorial it has been told to all of us that a successful life means good quality education, a good job, a happy marriage with lovely children and having caring and supportive family & friends. That’s true. I couldn’t agree more. But humans seem to have no appetite when it comes to success. Therefore, we are always doing ‘something’ yet we want more and more of it.

So how should we define what a successful life should be? A life can be defined in terms of:

Well being

We sacrifice our health (both physical and mental) for a better project at our jobs so that we climb ladders of success instantly. Sadly, we forget the age old saying, “Health is Wealth.” Just imagine, if you are not physically fit and mentally serene do you think that life is worth that bigger project you’re chasing. Prioritize health because when you’re healthy you’re way more successful than someone who is digging his/her own grave by making ‘work’ everything. By being well you’re giving yourself more opportunities to do your best work. Having tons of money in your bank account with an ailing health doesn’t account for a successful life. You are still miserable. 

Family

A loving, caring and supportive family is the biggest blessing of one’s life. A blessing we often take for granted because we are busy measuring our lives through other external means. Someone with a great family support can withstand everything life will offer and we don’t think of it as something to be grateful for. We care more about what our bosses, colleagues, strangers think of us that we miss out on how much our family loves us. Their love gets shadowed in front of other people’s constant approvals. We are always trying to please everyone other than our families yet no one gets pleased enough. Is that the kind of life we should be striving for? Would you call that a successful life because a successful person clearly knows his/her priorities. Having a great family is a sign of a successful life no matter what everybody says. 

True fans

Kevin Kelley, founder of Wired Magazine coined a term called “1000 true fans”. He believes these are the people who will buy anything and everything you will make because you have earned their trust. He further believes these 1,000 people will be enough for you to have a decent living standard (according to Kelley’s math).These are the people we must focus on. They can be our close friends, family members, spouses, colleagues or even complete strangers. What everybody else thinks should be of no concern to us. When we start caring about our true fans we will start feeling successful too. 

Autonomy

We all want to land prestigious universities and companies so that one day we have a prestigious life. There is nothing wrong with wanting something ‘better’ in our lives. It’s human nature after all. But sometimes we are so desperate that we often forget when everything should be enough. We are so desperate that we are even ready to lose our autonomy to reach the stars. Look at celebrities for instance. They have luxurious lives. They have a lot of money. They go on vacations all over the world as if it’s like taking our dogs for a walk every evening. They have the best cars and the best houses. Yet they feel something is missing in their lives. That’s probably their ‘autonomy’. Ryan holiday, a best selling author of The Obstacle is the Way has said that the definition of success is autonomy or independence. If we are not free, if we are always being told what to do (the way celebrities have to comply to their PR agents, lawyers, managers, etc before uttering a single word) then I am sorry but I don’t think that’s success. And even if that is what success looks like then it’s not worth it. We should do big things but autonomy should never be compromised with.

I think it’s time to re-define the definition of success. Probably it is going to help us become more content and happier.

The Art of Being Enough

Picture credits: Pinterest

This post might just change your life. But more importantly, I want it to change mine. In other words, you can say out loud that I am writing this short essay for me.

Every moment of our lives we are striving for more. We want more achievements, more money, more friends, more social approvals, more gadgets, etc. It seems like ‘more’ is guiding our lives. We do not take a pause, look around and think if everything we have is enough. We are always competing: competing with our former selves is a good thing (but it should be done in moderation too) while keeping an unhealthy competition with others is an invitation to self destruction and no self satisfaction. Nothing is ever enough for us. You might assume contentment equals no progress. I disagree. Being content in life provides a stronger platform to get closer to our goals and dreams. People who are content in life find better ways to pursue new goals.

Wrong: Contentment= No progress

Right: Contentment= Better progress

My elder sister is a successful woman. She has a stable job which she enjoys a lot. Recently, she has purchased a car. These are considered to be the measures of success; just to name a few. I have attributed her success with her salary and possessions. They are the external measures of success and they matter. But she has a quality that I believe can be referred to as her “internalmeasure of success. I will call it “the art of being enough”. My sister is ambitious. She knows what she wants in her life and then she goes after it. That’s how we all approach our lives too, right?

I don’t think so.

What sets her apart from the many people I have met is her ability to stay content. Her ambitions are loud but they are not loud enough to keep her dissatisfied with her accomplishments and life overall. She is not trying to do ‘everything’. She does ‘something’ and she gives her best in that. She knows when things get ‘enough’ for her. I admire such people.

I often talk about gratitude in my blog posts not because it looks cooler but because I personally believe how important it is to be grateful in life. Few years ago I would say I wasn’t a grateful person. But that changed with time. Now I say it out loud that I am a grateful person and whenever life throws mud at me I try to remind myself of all the things I have. Still, I have this constant feeling like something is missing. I could say it is because I am an over ambitious person. Also, I am very competitive (please bear in mind that I try my best to keep a healthy competition). For the past few days I have been wondering about it and it crossed my mind how I can learn a simple skill of being satisfied and content from my sister.

Why so serious? It’s just life

I have always been serious in life and my sister has always been jolly and carefree. That way she enjoys her life.

Does it mean she is not an accomplished person? Does it mean she has no bigger goals and aspirations? NO. She is a very successful person not only because she is well educated, she has a car, a place to live and other essentials but also because she practices an art of being enough. She strives for more and better things in life but at the same time she knows when and how to put a full stop to her desires. She prioritizes experiences and having diverse experiences in life makes life more worthy.

Seriously, it’s only life. Why be so serious???

Ambitions can be a double edged sword

I know well enough the cost of being over ambitious. There have been profits, not going to deny that. But I have bear losses too. And those losses are realized only when it gets too late. I believe we must all have higher goals in life. Having bigger goals motivate us to realize our potential. Taking risks alongside is crucial too because without risks nothing changes; not even our circumstances. If there is no contentment everything seems futile. There shall be zero satisfaction.

 Is it a good life? A life where we have almost everything yet we tell ourselves we have nothing? I know that’s a difficult question because at the end of each day we want more. That’s a harsh reality. Even though it is a harsh reality should we just let ourselves suffer? Probably not.

Practice the art of being enough

It is not easy to go against our pre-wired biological mechanisms. It is not easy to go against our own human psychology. But that doesn’t or shouldn’t mean we don’t make changes.

Like my sister, I am trying to stay content in life. I plan things out. I imagine my future and try work accordingly. I keep higher goals for myself. In the midst of all this, I tell myself whatever I have right now is enough. With that little dialogue with me I start believing not only what I have is enough but I am enough too. When we start believing that we are enough we are much happier. That further motivates us to go one step further and further and so on and so forth. If only I am ungrateful for everything that I have do you really think I will be motivated enough to take a leap of faith and go for another goal? I will only be stuck with self-loathing and self-loathing is always our foe.

There are no limits to human desires and that’s the fundamental cause of our suffering according to Buddhist philosophy. I don’t think our goal is to eliminate our desires and become void beings. Contrary to that ,our goal should be to keep our desires in check and whenever we get a signal that our desires are getting out of control we should take a pause and reflect.

Decoding Myself- Impermanence v/s Inevitability

Picture credits: Deviant Art

We fear death. We fear we won’t be there anymore in the future. We fear we will have no knowledge of our own experiences & memories and how the world’s gonna keep going on without us.

We crave for life. We crave for more breaths so that we can enjoy what life has to offer. It doesn’t make sense, does it? Wanting more of life and no death even though we know life is temporary and death inevitable?


Why? I don’t understand why we do this.

How’s life any better?

It’s full of challenges, atrocities, betrayals and disappointments. We have ‘one life‘ but we can never afford to live it on our own terms. There’s people we have to think of.

Friends. Family. Colleagues. Teachers. And many more.

We have to think of them before making a decision about anything and everything. We may say we don’t get influenced by anyone, we may say we do what we want to do, we may say we are the captain of our own ships. But let’s be honest. It’s not true.

Yes, in life we make many decisions by listening to our own selves. Just our selves. But it doesn’t happen all the time. It is rude and inhumane to only think of ourselves all the time. Our choices are not as independent as we think they are. It’s pretty messed up, right? Then why do we crave for life?

At least death puts an end to all of this drama.

In life, we often fail. We get success as well, no doubt. But failure never misses any opportunity to give us some company for some time. We lose loved ones while we are alive. That’s like so unfair and life doesn’t seem to care. There’s politics. There’s violence and chaos. There’s jealousy, envy. All of this to live with in just one Life. One so-called life. How is life any better than death? Death is saddening.

Who says life isn’t it?


Maybe we are greedy when it comes to experiences. Probably that’s why we gather so much of courage to stand against what life has to offer.