In our society we have embraced a very particular and narrow definition of success. Usually, success is being associated with, and measured by, wealth, achievement and status. Another important dynamic with success, at least that is how I experience it, is that your wealth and achievement has to grow all the time. Even if you are a billionaire but you lose let’s say 25% of your fortune, people will no longer associate you with success.
So, what about you? Do you consider yourself successful in life? If not, why not?
Sometimes it is good that we are provided with a different view point, i.e. to put success in another perspective. To that end I want to share with you a beautiful, short story called “Life Explained,” which I found on www.spiritual-short-stories.com. It is amusing, very realistic and thought provoking…
A boat docked in a tiny Mexican village. An American tourist complimented the Mexican fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took him to catch them.
“Not very long,” answered the Mexican.
“But then, why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more?” asked the American.
The Mexican explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family.
The American asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”
“I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta with my wife. In the evenings, I go into the village to see my friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar, and sing a few songs. I have a full life.”
The American interrupted, “I have an MBA from Harvard and I can help you! You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat.”
“And after that?” asked the Mexican.
“With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers. Instead of selling your fish to a middle man, you can then negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant. You can then leave this little village and move to Mexico City, Los Angeles, or even New York City! From there you can direct your huge new enterprise.”
“How long would that take?” asked the Mexican.
“Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years,” replied the American.
“And after that?”
“Afterwards? Well my friend, that’s when it gets really interesting,” answered the American, laughing. “When your business gets really big, you can start buying and selling stocks and make millions!”
“Millions? Really? And after that?” asked the Mexican.
“After that you’ll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, play with your children, catch a few fish, take a siesta with your wife and spend your evenings drinking and enjoying your friends.”
Questions you may want to reflect on
1. If you look at your life right now, what would need to change or improve, if anything, before you would call it a success? Why? How would it make your life more successful then now?
2. Is your perception of success influenced by the ideas, thoughts and beliefs of others? Who are the most important “influencers” in that respect: your parents, your partner, your friends or colleagues? How so?
3. Can you consider yourself successful as things are right now? Can you appreciate everything you have accomplished until now, whatever it is, and the wisdom you have gained in life?