This new book has got me thinking, and that’s usually a bad thing.
The pattern I’ve set down in the last year or so has been one of constant work: write, revise, write, revise. Always working. But now, with this new book on success and its meaning, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking, trying to crack the philosophical nut so many take for granted.
And it’s led me down some odd paths. I’ve shared a few with you. Here’s another one…
Success is elusive, obviously. Not just achieving success but defining it. It’s a greasy term, a sleek weasel; it doesn’t want to be caught.
So people tend to isolate it and apply it rather discriminately. For instance, you might hear someone mention that they are successful in their career or in their “goals” or as a parent, and so on.
But even then, success works against you. It won’t be your bitch.
What’s it mean to be a success in your career? Does it mean you’ve achieved the position you want? Or that you do a good job? Or that you’re paid well? Yes? No? All? Some? The problem is that the closer you get to defining it, the farther you are from understanding it.
What if you consider yourself a success as a parent? Is it because your child is healthy? Smart? Happy? Just like you? A free thinker? Again, labels muddy things.
So, you have to draw back. I know I do. That’s the whole point of this. I spent years in that mud and I want to clear it up.
So, I was driving last night and I tried another approach. Why do we work? To get money… right?
Um, no. If work was purely utilitarian, people wouldn’t be so concerned with job fulfillment. Switch it around, you run into the same problem. It also means that you can’t apply such answers as “security” or “belonging”. The problem is that we work for more reasons than that.
And we’re back to Maslow and Kundalini.
But, rather than leave it there, I decided to keep going anyway. What other seemingly straight paths curve, mirage-like, as we get closer? I used the template, “Why do we…?” as a guide, as in “Why do we work?”
What popped immediately into my mind was, “Why do we climb mountains?” (Which is probably better phrased as “Why climb a mountain?”)
The obvious answer is, “To get to the top.”
But I realized, almost immediately that it isn’t so. There’s rarely anything on the top. We can see the top with satellites, anyway. Maybe, at one time, that reason sufficed but, now that people have already climbed all the mountains, why keep doing it? For exercise? No, you could go to the gym for that.
And, yet, people still climb mountains. Why?
And then, it occurred to me… that definition that eludes us so…
Now, before you ask, I have looked this up in the dictionary and the definitions provided there are the most horrid sort. They are:
1. the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors.
Well, this doesn’t work. This would mean you couldn’t consider yourself a success until you were dead (thus the term “termination”)! No! No!
2. the attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like.
Success is simply getting shit? No! If it was true, it would still be incomplete – because half of gaining wealth, position, etc. is to have others see it. It would be senseless in a vacuum. But it’s not true at all because there are smaller successes in life, just as valuable – remember what it was like to be able to tie your shoes by yourself?
3. a successful performance or achievement
Any term that uses itself to define itself is hogwash. It’s as if red was defined as “something red”!
4. a person or thing that is successful
So, the dictionary was of no use at all. Success needs more to define it, and that’s what I thought I had!
Success is the action of self-definition. An action with a positive outcome, we term “success”. An action with a negative outcome, we term “failure”.
This seemed to work. Somehow, all along, I have know that Success and Failure were flips of the coin away. In addition, and unlike the dictionary definition, success does have a solitary component that goes beyond “getting things”.
But my brain wasn’t done, yet. For, after thinking about mountain climbers, it had already gone to the next step… the next question…
Why did the chicken cross the road?
Now, the traditional answer is “To get to the other side”… though there are many others!
Still, if you look at it in terms of this new definition, you begin to see that it’s not about the other side… it’s not about the road… it’s about why anyone tries to do anything. It’s about the impulse of life, that same force that drove sperm on their monumental swim…
I'm going to have to think some more…