Friday, 28 September 2012

Success ... You vs. Society

“Show me the money!” Jerry Mcguire (Tom Cruise) screamed in a public restroom as his client urged him on in.

“A, B, C! A-Always! B-Be! C-Closing! Always Be Closing!” yelled Blake (Alec Baldwin) at the sales team in Glengarry Glen Ross.

“You can be successful and have enemies or you can be unsuccessful and have friends.” States Dominic (Armand Assante) in American Gangster.

These are the kind of things we hear when success is talked about on film. And boy do we put a lot of stock in the philosophies we see come out of Hollywood. The funny thing is, most of these ideas of success are shown to be wrong in the films they are presented in. Usually the nice guy comes out on top and the hardcore theories are put out to pasture. But then guess what. Those hardcore theories are what translate into the real world! We ignore the lesson learned in the film and go with the bad guy’s definition of success.

We yell, “Show me the money!”
We try to “Always be closing.”
We accept that to have success we will make enemies.


Society seems to have this accepted definition of success that is based on accumulating as much money as possible to buy things and gain influence. If someone gets in your way, you move them or step on them or whatever you have to. This is what we are told is necessary to make it in the world of business.

Even when we look at parts of our society that are somewhat more laid back, we can still see that happening. Family life in the suburbs. Everyone is calm and peaceful. Sure Dave will give up a full Saturday to help his neighbor Garry build a deck. But when Garry asks for $100 to sponsor his kid’s softball team ... woah, thats one of those requests that is stepping over the line buddy. Why? Because it involves that thing that we have decided defines success in our society. The almighty dollar! I’ll give you my time, I’ll give you my sweat, heck I’ll give you my family’s time and sweat, but don’t ask for my $$$$$$!

Do you get the feeling that I have a bit of a hate on for how much influence money has in our society? Well I suppose I do.

Money is a great tool. An important tool. It is a wonderful way to convert our effort and time into things we need. It is a lot easier to work at one thing and earn some money to go grocery shopping at one store, than to have to work an hour for your milk at the dairy farmer’s, then another hour at the potato farm for some potatoes and so on. It is a great tool for converting our time and effort into whatever we want. The problem is, we have turned it into something much bigger than that, something it isn’t.

We have taken this tool and turned it into the determining factor of a human being’s worth! We put a dollar amount on success. Most of us have probably heard some magic number from our parents when we were young. “A good job will pay at least $xxxxxx per year.” Look at that judgement! If the job pays less than $xxxxxx it is not a good job! Its a bad job! That means you are not doing good until you can show a tax statement that says $xxxxxx on it!

So we get the job that pays $xxxxxx. But we can’t walk around showing everyone our pay stubs or talking about how much we make. But we have to show our “success” somehow. So we buy stuff that could only be afforded by someone who makes $xxxxxx. We buy the 3000 square foot home, the 2 cars, the 4 tv’s and the boat. But then we notice. Hmmmm, everybody seems to have that, I don’t look successful if I have the same as everyone else. I need to be above average. So then we buy the giant motor home, and then so does Jessica down the street, then Carl from the cul-de-sac buys one that blocks out the sun. You see the snowball building? It is a horrible big nasty snowball that rolls all over our cities and towns getting bigger and bigger, consuming everything in it’s path!

The question I ask is, “How many people who have all of these “indicators of success” are actually happy with their lives?”

There is nothing wrong with 3000 square foot homes, or having 2 cars, or 4 tvs, or a boat, or a motor home. These things can be absolute blessings...

...IF they are the things YOU actually want.

So many boats sit unused. So many motor homes only roll out of the driveway twice per year. So many homeowners complain about how much “stuff” they have cluttering their garage where they would park their 2 cars if there was space. And the solution? Get a bigger place, because we can’t get rid of all this stuff that shows how successful we are. (insert exasperated sigh here).

If we really look at what we actually want for our own life and stopped caring about what society says we should want, we could avoid this kind of situation.

Do not allow the world to judge you by your bank account!

Don’t worry about showing the world that you can meet society’s definition of success. In the end, you need to care about making you and those you love happy. Not impressing the neighbors (they will probably move away to bigger houses to store all their junk anyway. Either that or to a smaller house so they can try to pay off all the debt they incurred trying to impress the neighborhood).

They only way to take control of this and avoid being run over by that giant snowball is to acknowledge your own definition of success.

If you would like some help finding your personal definition of success, check out these workshops and retreats coming up over the next couple of months.

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