How do I go about determining the answer to this question?
It occurs to me that a starting point is to list that which is commonly associated with success: wealth (money), fame, power, status…..
Wealth. Without hesitation I can say that I am not wealthy. Therefore, I am not a success in this dimension.
Fame. I am perfectly safe walking amongst a throng of humanity: none of my fellow humans would single me out of the crowd. I am one of seven billion. So I am not a success in this dimension either.
Power. I do not possess the power to act on others, shape their behaviour and direct the course of the future. More precisely, I have no more power than the ordinary man. And we all know that the ordinary man is ordinary precisely because he lacks power. Clearly, I am not a success in the domain of power.
Status. What goes with being ordinary? Lack of status. There is nothing about me that calls forth status. Neither do I hold a rank of fill a role that carries status. I am clear that I am not a success in this domain either.
Given that which I share do you consider me to be a success? I am clear that by the standards of the society I am not a success. Some in my social circle see me as a person who has not lived up to his potential, others see me as a failure.
How Is It That I Experience Myself As A Success?
Unannounced and uninvited I find myself seized by the conviction of success. Put differently, in my lived experience I show up for myself as a success. What is going on here?
What has hit me with considerable force is that the existential projects in which I have invested in myself have turned out along the lines that I worked for them to turn out. What am I talking about? Let’s look at each.
My wife and I have been together since 1992 and married since 1995. She is white and French. I am not white and not French. Despite the misgivings of our parents (and some friends) we are still together. It has not been easy going, we have faced many challenges. I am particularly proud of the way I stood for and helped make happen that which was my wife’s dream and is, today, her passion:
You have always been the king of my heart, even with all that has gone on between us at times…… I also want to thank you for supporting me with my counselling, while this can be a demanding job at times. I cannot wish for any other job … While I don’t always take the time to say, I know who does the washing up, empty the dishwasher ……. when I am not here or just too tired…..
I have been concerned with the wellbeing of my eldest son since he was about eight years old. Why? That is when it became clear that he was dyslexic. Whilst being smart he struggled in the classroom and this dented his confidence and wellbeing.
I put a lot of myself into my son’s wellbeing including taking the fight all the way (jumping over several hurdles over the course of year or so) to get him the specialist tuition he needed. Today, at the age of nineteen he is well known-liked in the community. Has managed a retail shop for over a year. And has earned-saved enough money to pay for his driving lessons, buy a car and insure it with his earned-saved money. This is what he writes:
Thank you so much for all the time you have put into looking for a car and to help me drive. I do really appreciate it. I thank you for supporting me through changing jobs. I love you lots even though we have our differences.
The Younger Son
I had great hopes for my younger son when he was around eight years old. He was so full of life. And where his older brother struggled to put a sentence together, the younger would confidently walk on to the stage and hold everyone’s attention and make us laugh.
Things changed when he moved passed the age of eleven and moved into a new school. It has taken a lot to be with all his struggles especially when he has been in considerable pain and I have found myself experiencing myself totally helpless to fix things. Sometimes, all I have been able to give is a hug. Here is what he wrote for my birthday:
I love you more than words can describe and thank you for making my days feel happier, easier and more relaxing. I ……… take this opportunity to let you know how much your calming hugs & massages make a positive contribution in making me feel happier, more at ease with myself, and more positive about life……. No one can make me feel like that through their affection… I couldn’t imagine my life without you.
With the boys I was comfortable looking after them right from birth. That was not the case for my daughter. Why? Because she is female! With the help-guidance I overcame my fears and was comfortable doing all that needs to be done with a baby.
Somewhere along the way my daughter and I developed an especially strong relationship. I am into wisdom and tales of wisdom. Most people find them boring. My daughter didn’t, she could not get enough. She loved to hear a different tale every night – just before she went to sleep.
The Buddhists say that life flows, change is what is so, nothing lasts. And it is our attachment/clinging that ultimately generates our sense of dissatisfaction with life. I didn’t pay enough attention: as my daughter moved towards her teenage years we drifted apart. For a while I was left with a great sense of loss. And I worried for her and wondered what it was that I had done wrong.
Where had I failed as a father? This is what my daughter told me recently:
To start off I want to thank you for everything that you do for me and everything you have taught me. I want you to know that I LOVE YOU LOTS! You mean the world to me! I wouldn’t be able to live without you!
I want you to know that I will never stop loving you even if we don’t talk as mud or spend time together like we used to. I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU!
I had a decision to make about a year ago. My niece wanted to come and look for a job in London and wanted somewhere to stay for six weeks. The question that I asked myself was a deeper one: “Am I willing to have my niece stay with us and treat her as my daughter? To treat her with the same consideration-love that I show for my daughter?”
My niece has now been living with us, and as an integral member of the family, for about a year. This is what she told me recently:
I want to thank you for everything. I am a very lucky girl to have an uncle like you. I am also very proud of you for everything that you have achieved this year, all the challenges and setbacks and you still pulled through. I love your very much!
Why Have I Shared This With You?
I have shared this with you in order to communicate the following:
1. Whether you show up for yourself as a success or a failure depends on how you look at your life and at the point in time that you do the looking. If you are up for a deeper appreciation of that which I am pointing at then read the following post: I Have Failed, Am I A Failure?
2. The staring point of playing BIG is not being ensnared by that which society deems to be success. And choosing your existential projects – that which truly matters to you, authentically! And then putting your all into these projects.
3. Playing BIG can be as simple and as difficult as making a meaningful contribution in the lives of our fellow human beings starting with those nearest-dearest to us.
4. No amount of success is likely to be experienced as success until and unless you/i invite love into our living: loving other/s and inviting/receiving the love of other/s.