Monday, March 19, 2012

The Price of Success

Here's a great post from Ollin over at Courage 2 Create. I wanted to share it today not only because I've experienced this as a writer, but also because I think it is an idea that transcends to any career choice. It is also a concept that I try to let shape my life (fighting my more unenlightened urges to the contrary at times).

The basic point is that a lot of times we fall into the trap of thinking that if we could only succeed in our chosen career, that we will be happy. Yet, reality has presented us with a deluge of examples where this is exactly not the case, where success in a job actually creates more unhappiness. Even when it's a "dream job." Or maybe the expected sense of fulfillment is curiously absent, as if the success is somehow incomplete.

In my own life, I often feel like it's just "not enough." My job, any job, is not all of what I'm about. It is not all of what I want to be. I want to be a father (someday) and an active member of the community I live in. I want to live my faith. I want to contribute to more than just my bank ledger and 401k. I want to be a whole person. A career, any career, just doesn't cut it on its own. Succeeding in a career does not equate to succeeding in life.

Even if I succeed in transitioning from full-time engineer to full-time writer (which I desperately want to do), it won't represent the summation of who I am. It isn't the only thing I want, and in that there is a sort of safety. All of my eggs aren't in one basket. Having other areas of my life that are essentially unrelated to my career choice provides me with a built-in buffer should I fail. It allows me to take reasonable risks. Even if I never succeed in making this transition, it doesn't mean my life is a failure. There are other places where I'm making progress in parallel. And I'm certainly not sacrificing things like my family or my marriage for a job, even a dream job.

Maybe this idea will doom me in the long run. After all, I'm simply not willing to give as much as some others. Living in a capitalist society, you learn pretty quick that there is always someone willing to go further, do more, put in longer hours. America was sort of founded on that principle, right? The American Dream? Still, I can't help but think that a solitary focus is unhealthy; it spoils the dream from within the dreamer. At what price does success become too expensive?

When I started on this journey, I made one promise to myself. I'm going to do this the right way for me. One of my favorite adages from my father was the notion that "there's just something to be said about doing things right." The "rightness" is, itself, the reward. Other people may blow past me on their fast tracks, but I'm staying true to my road, even though it may be slower. This way, success if it comes, when it comes, will be all the sweeter.

4 comments:

LeighAnnH said...

Amen, brotha...

Matt said...

Well, I didn't mean to get all preachy... :-).

It is something I think people would do well to take time and consider. Even if they decide whatever sacrifices they're making are worth it. There are always sacrifices...

Lauralynn Elliott said...

This post rings so true. As I said on Nadja's post when she mentioned THIS post, the important things to me are about the kind of person I am, about my faith and the way I treat others. Career success is great, but it's secondary to the really important things.

Matt said...

/agree. And I think it's almost easier these days to go overboard in the wrong way. It seems to be what is expected if you "want to succeed."

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