From generic success to personal success

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The other day someone asked me that dreaded question, ‘what do you do?’, to which I replied. ‘What don’t I do?’, cue loads of polite laughter. When that died down, I explained I worked in the family business and I am a writer.

People are always intrigued when they hear the word ‘writer’, and I’ve learned the next question is often, ‘What do you write?’ followed by, ‘Would I know anything you’ve written?’

These are all questions that used to make me jittery. Why? Because we live in a world where your value is determined by your success, or perceived success. It’s what I like to call generic success.

Generic success is the success that society determines the meaning of. Success in our society means the level of your wealth and your status in society. (As much as we like to pretend we don’t judge others by what they do, we as a society, do just that.)

Success forms the burden of society’s expectation that you follow a well-worn path: education, job/career, promotion, car, house, family. Mostly, in that order. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, it is our striving for those things that makes the world go round. Isn’t it?

I’ve read a lot of stories of successful people and they are both inspiring and uplifting. But I can also say, I’ve also read a lot of stories of successful people who still felt lost, or unfulfilled. Yes, they’ve achieved all those things, they have money and a proportion of wealth, some have a well respected stature, but inside, they still feel something is missing.

I wonder if it is age/wisdom thing, or just a product of our society where generic success isn’t working for us anymore? After all, generic success can’t fit everybody. At a certain point in life, or age, many do wonder about personal success. A success that isn’t defined by society, money or status. A success that is fulfilling and deeply personal. Sometimes, even hard to put into words.

I’ve written before about success and what it means to me, and with everything it’s an ever-evolving thought pattern. I’ve certainly walked the path of generic success, and it wasn’t a bad thing. It enabled me an education, to begin in the workforce and gain a strong work ethic. It taught me persistence and how to deal with the ups and downs of life. It allowed me to buy a car, my first house. And over the years it has allowed me to work hard and gain a moderate wealth, and raise a family. But I wouldn’t say it has fulfilled me.

Here comes the wisdom.

It’s only recent years where I’ve realised that all of that isn’t success. It’s just, I guess, life. And it always brings me back to Maslow’s Hierarchy of  Needs. Where I sit now has been a progression in time, as it should. And now I feel my needs have changed. I’m at a point where I’m exploring my potential and striving for personal, inward success.

Where I can call myself a writer, maybe even one day an author, and feel a sense of personal contentment that only I can put a value on.

It’s funny, this post has gone off on such a different tangent to the initial thought pod. I was wanting to talk about not having to follow a path of generic success. How I’ve come to realise that money, status, wealth and material possessions aren’t the things on which a person should be judged or feel successful or unsuccessful.

But through writing this post and tossing around the idea, I think I’ve come to realise that maybe generic success isn’t that bad. Maybe it’s just part of the process, or for lack of a better word, the journey, to fulfill our basic needs first so we get to a point where we understand what it is we really want out of life. What will really fulfill us. 

Interesting don’t you think?