Am I A Success?


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.

Wife

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…..

Eldest Son

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.

 Daughter

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!

Niece

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.

Is this real love?


After watching the film The Impossible I found myself to have been affected rather profoundly.  Put differently, I found myself to be ‘all shaken up’.

What shook me was the humanity that showed up in that devastation, that suffering. What showed up for me was how little of a contribution that I am making in the world. What shook me up was the level of pain that is in the world and what little I do to help my fellow wo/man in being with / dealing with pain/suffering.  In short, I showed up for myself as a failure.  Perhaps, even a hypocrite.

So I found myself with tears running down my face. Being with what was so I found myself tired/exhausted. And, I feel asleep in the lounge whilst getting hugs from daughter and one of the sons.

Some hours later I woke up and  looked at the coffee table that was next to me.  What did I find?  I found a box of tissues and this note:

Clea I love you 1This note cheered me up.  I was touched by the love of daughter for me.  Then as I got up off the sofa that I was lying on and made my way to the mantlepiece I found my glasses and the following:

Clea I love you 2By now I was deeply touched.  It occurred to me that perhaps I have not failed to be/make the kind of contribution that I say I am committed to making.  Perhaps, just perhaps, I may be a decent human being doing.  This cheered me up.

As I looked around the room and specifically the dining table I found some stuff.  I wondered why that stuff was there.  Who had put it there and why?  Then I moved closer to the table  and found this waiting for me:

Clea I love you 3

At this point I found myself laughing out loud.  Why? I was totally present to the love that exists between daughter and myself.  It occurred to me that real love exists between daughter and me.  In that space I got that I matter, I make a difference. And as long as my living makes a difference to even one being then my life is not wasted. Nor am I failure.  It occurred to me that the future is wide open to being invented and lived for as long as I have this gift of a life – including the love that I am blessed with.

As I made my way around the rest of the house – the kitchen, the stairs, the bathroom, I found more notes from daughter saying the same “I love you! from Clea”. And in that moment, I got that this is real love.  I got how blessed I am and in getting that I found my being transformed: I straightened up, I was taller, a positive outlook gripped me, smiles and joy were present….

 

I have failed, am I failure? (part II): Werner is right, I don’t know my ass from a hole in the ground, do you?


This post is a follow up to the last post I wrote:  I have failed, am I a failure?   The source of this post is a friend that reached out to me after my last post.  Before I speak/share that with you allow me to prepare the ground by sharing some of Werner Erhard’s sayings on our relationship to Reality.

What does Werner say about our relationship to Reality?

“You don’t know your ass from a hole in the ground. Anybody who knew their ass from a hole in the ground could stand up and tell me how they know when something’s real.”

“There is no necessary relationship between the way you feel, the way you think, the way you are, the way you’ve figured it out and the way it really is.”

“This lady lives her life as if when she feels a bear there’s really a bear…… I want you to get that this is the way you live your life: as if reality is what is real to you?”

Werner is right: I don’t know my ass from a hole in the ground

In my reality (as opposed to Reality) it does occur to me that I have failed in so many ways. And I shared that with you in this post:  I have failed, am I failure? 

The question is what is the relationship between my reality (how things show up for me, my thoughts, my feelings, my beliefs) and Reality (what is really so)?  If you read my post you will notice that it occurs to me that I have failed at being the kind of friend that I imagined I would be and was up for being.   I’ll let you judge – one of my friends read my post and sent this email:

I read your post and wanted to say that I think you are a wonderful friend. There are very few people who have been there consistently for me over the last 20yrs in the way that you have been – especially given my overall crapiness in keeping in touch and given that I know it is not something I have returned.  I read a poem a few years ago and at the time I read it I thought of the way in which you have been there for me so I’m sending it to you. I know you don’t do the whole feelings are important thing but please take it in the spirit in which it’s intended.

If there was ever one

Whom when you were sleeping

Would wipe your tears

When in dreams you were weeping;

Who would offer you time

When others demand;

Whose love lay more infinite

Than grains of sand.

 

If there was ever one

To whom you could cry;

Who would gather each tear

And blow it dry;

Who would offer help

On the mountains of time;

Who would stop to let each sunset

Soothe the jaded mind.

 

If there was ever one

To whom when you run

Will push back the clouds

So you are bathed in sun;

Who would open arms

If you would fall;

Who would show you everything

If you lost it all.

 

If there was ever one

Who when you achieve

Was there before the dream

And even then believed;

Who would clear the air

When it’s full of loss;

Who would count love

Before the cost.

 

If there was ever one

Who when you are cold

Will summon warm air

For your hands to hold;

Who would make peace

In pouring pain,

Make laughter fall

In falling rain.

 

If there was ever one

Who can offer you this and more;

Who in keyless rooms

Can open doors;

Who in open doors

Can see open fields

And in open fields

See harvests yield.

 

Then see only my face

In the reflection of these tides

Through the clear water

Beyond the river side.

All I can send is love

In all that this is

A poem and a necklace

Of invisible kisses.”

This email, this reaching out by my friend gets me present to the this fact: at least in the domain of friendships and as regards this friend in particular I do not know my ass from the hole in the ground.  No I have assumed.  The Reality is that my thoughts/feelings about myself as a friend do not tie up with what is really so.  Which makes me wonder, am I making the same ‘error’ (mistaking my reality for Reality) in other domains of life?

Is Werner right about you?  That you too do not know your ass from a hole in the ground?

Are you as convinced, today, as I was yesterday that your thoughts/feelings are an accurate representation of Reality?  If so it is highly likely, I say certain, that Werner is right about you as well: you do not know your ass from a hole in the ground!  Just in case you haven’t figured it out let me state it bluntly: you don’t have to be stuck with your reality you can let it go. If your are up for that, if you want to have your life work then I invite you to read the following post: Want to set yourself free and live powerfully? Let go of your beliefs….

I have failed, am I a failure?


Karl Jaspers on failure

“The ultimate situations – death, chance, guilt and the uncertainty of the world – confront me with the reality of failure. What do I do in the face of absolute failure, which if I am honest I cannot fail to recognize? …Crucial for man is his attitude toward failure………………The way in which man approaches failure determines what he will become.”

When I look at my life it occurs to me that I have failed in so many ways

I have failed to be the kind of husband I imagined and was up for being. And I imagine that my wife sees me as a failure as a husband.

I have failed to be the kind of father I imagined and was up for being. And the kind of results I expected to show up failed to show up. I suspect that one or more of children see me as a flawed father.

I have failed to be the kind of son I imagined and was up for being. And my father often tells me how much of a disappointment I am and how I failed him.

I have failed to be the kind of brother I imagined and was up for being. My relationship with one of my brothers is particularly difficult.

I have failed to be the kind of uncle I imagined and was up for being. I came out strong out of the starting gate and then my own children arrived.

I have failed to be the kind of friend I imagined and was up for being.

I have failed to be a ‘good employee’ – you could say I am blessed/cursed with an independence of mind and the rebelliousness to go with it.

I have failed to the kind of neighbour I imagined and was up for being though I have good enough relationships with my neighbours.

I have failed to arrive at the kind of career / financial success I envisaged when I was young and at university.

I have failed in making something great out of Humanity In Action even though it got off to a great start.

I have failed to have the kind of impact I wanted and imagined that I would have on people’s lives (for the better) and the world. My sister once told me something like “I used to so look up to you. Nowadays, I am just disappointed in you.” And she had every right to be. I was at least that disappointed in myself!

I have failed to master myself – the automatic machinery that just shows up and spoils the show. This failure is the one that stings the most if I let it sting.

I have failed does that mean I am a failure?

Given that I have failed in so many ways I am free – not trapped by the allure of ‘perfection’, ‘success’, ‘reputation’, ‘looking good and avoiding looking bad’. I am free to simply be, to live, to be grateful for the privilege of living as I live: in a safe country; in an affluent/safe neighbourhood; in a nice house; as a member of a family; with the privilege of sight which allows me to be present to beauty, to navigate, to read; with the privilege of sound such that I get to enjoy music; with the privilege of movement so I can move, dance, cycle, play sports; with the privilege of touch so that I can give and receive hugs; with the privilege of language so that I can speak myself and connect with my fellow human beings in/through conversation.

I am that which I am. Anything else is simply a label that I put on myself or someone else – mother, father, brother, sister, son, daughter, friend – puts on me. What I am really interested in is this question: how can I live such that I ‘play BIG’: live an ‘extraordinary’ life: be of service to my fellow human beings; to put something into, to contribute to the game of life; and co-create a ‘world that works’, none excluded. The question is how well am I living that mission? The answer is that I can play this game much more powerfully then I am playing right now!

You and I can live in the past or be fully embedded in the present (surviving, fixing, looking good and avoiding looking bad) or we can invent, project and live into possibilities (like the possibility of ‘playing BIG’) that provide meaning for our lives, that move-touch-inspire us to live resolutely and play full-out in this game called Life.