An open, melodramatic letter from myself to myself (re: success)
Dearest Self, (Lol, too formal.) Yo Yo Yo Self! (Yikes, too informal.)
Hey, it’s me. (That’ll work.)
No use wasting time on any introductions or lengthy formal greetings since we already know each other pretty well… so, getting straight to the point:
There are going to be many times in the years to come when people praise you and tell you that you’re better than other people: for graduating, for getting a job, for going back to school, for dating that person you’re dating, for someday buying a house, for getting a promotion, for maybe getting married someday, for following your dreams, and for a bunch of little things in between.
There are also going to be times when people, sometimes even yourself, tell you that you’re worse than other people: for not using that degree like you should have, for not getting a better job, for not getting another degree, for not having a five-year plan, for not having settled down yet, for not having it all together, for following your dreams, and for a bunch of little things in between.
This happens because we live in a world that looks at success as climbing “the ladder.” You’ve heard of the ladder… you know, the very small, narrow, nearly infinitely tall one? The one that 7.4 billion other people are trying to climb up? Yes, that one.
And this happens because we’re taught that the way we get to the top of said ladder is by competing against our peers for one of the few places at the top and by being better than them.
This, in turn, leaves us in somewhat of a pickle if we’re being honest. It leaves us comfortable rooting for other people’s success, sure, (because there is a genuine part of us that’s happy for them after all), BUT only until they start to succeed as much as or God forbid more than us… at which point we’re taught that this person is now a threat to us and our success, and while we can smile and congratulate them to their face, it’s probably a wise idea to
A. Do something to discourage them from climbing any higher and/or sabotage their efforts in some other way
B. Do something to catapult yourself up a few rungs, so as to distance yourself enough that their success no longer poses an immediate threat to yours.
C. Frantically do both A & B simultaneously.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned the last few years is this: Options A, B, & C are all god awful, and the view of success as something available to only the few who make it to the top is really and truly a load of crap.
I’ve learned that all that this view of success does, at the end of the day, is get us caught up in perpetual cycles of jealousy (when other people are “better” than us) and pride (when we are “better” than other people). It makes us look enviously to the “more successful” person to our right and say things like, “Why can’t I be where she is?” and then makes us promptly look disgustedly to the “less successful” person to our left and say things like, “Well at least I’m not where he is.” SMH. This is no good. No good no good no good. And this will not do any longer.
Here’s what I know now: one of the best things you can do as you continue throughout your life is to remember that real success isn’t making it to the top of some teeny tiny ladder. It’s actually a recognition that TRUE success is looking beyond yourself, to the people to your left and to your right, and not asking, “How can I be better than you?” but by grabbing their hands, pulling them close, and asking them the question, “What new thing can you and I create together for the Good of the World that we couldn’t create on our own?”
Success in its purest form is contributing to the rising of human consciousness for the sake of Love and all things Holy. Real success [dramatic pause] is Sacred.
And while there is totally a time and place to use competition as a catalyst to make yourself your best self, the importance of possessing ambition to be better than who you were yesterday far outweighs the importance of any competition to be better than who other people are today or might be tomorrow.
Other things to remember as you go forth:
1. Ultimately, one person’s individual success doesn’t collectively take away from the potential of another person’s success. (So chill tf out)
2. Success is not a limited commodity, because it cannot and should not look the same for everyone. As has been taught in many a motivational workshop, in this context, scarcity is an illusion. (So once again, chill tf out)
3. It’s silly for all of us to try to climb up a room-for-one ladder, when the world was built for ALL of us to elevate collectively. (So just don’t be silly… don’t do it)
Bottom line: if you ever EVER find yourself coming from and acting from a place of “I’m worse than” or “I’m better than” someone else, to put it bluntly, you’re missing the point, and it’s time to recalibrate.
That’s all for now….
Onward and upward (together),
(Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash)