Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Making It . . . Not. Dispelling Success Stereotypes

The most important things in life are not things.

At what point is a person considered successful?
Is success a destination, a process, achievements along the journey of meaning or part of a greater whole? If somebody has made it, is s/he successful, and what exactly does it mean to 'make it' or to succeed?

Is success a destination?

Success Stereotypes

A few years ago, I met with Alice, an enduring friend I got to know back in college. This was several years after we had both graduated, many months since drifting apart.

During this encounter, we took time to catch up and several of our mutual friends, their whereabouts and stations in life inevitably cropped up. "Kez is doing great!" Alice said. "She drives a big car and is married to a rich guy who imports electronics from Dubai." This went on for a while, and I couldn't help noticing the metrics Alice used to determine success.

"Imagine I bumped into Nzioka at Kencom the other day," she carried on. "Jamaa alikuwa ame-beat sio kidogo. He was catching a bus to Community, he is now a Civil Servant working with the Ministry of Health." At this point, I quickly imagined the kind of information she would volunteer about me, to other persons. "Watu wengi wa hizo miaka zetu wako poa lakini. Guys are doing well, you should see the furniture and decor at Mary's place in Kileleshwa. The rent is over 50k..." And she carried on and on.


Looking back at what Alice was saying, I realize that we live in a society that revolves around money - making as much of it as possible and in the shortest time, and then spending it in very visible ways - that would largely be considered successful.

Since we are largely wired to note things suddenly, and therefore overlook the time it takes and the effort that goes into things happening gradually, 'making it' has apparently taken the meaning of living relatively better off in comparison to one's peers. The operative word here is in comparison.

Consumerism has at one time been described as using money that one doesn't have to buy things that one doesn't need, to piss off people that one does not like, people who ironically, do not care about it at all.

For many people, they feel they have achieved something only when and if some money is made.
But is life all about making and spending money?

In the Season 13 episode 03 of South Park titled Margaritaville, Randy Marsh tries to explain the Economic Recession to his son Stan. Watch the clip below:

Highlighting Stan's explanation:
There's a bunch of idiots out there who weren't happy with what they had. They wanted a bigger house and, materialistic things that they didn't even need. People with no money, who got loans to buy frivolous things they had no business buying.
These assholes just blindly started buying any stupid thing that looked appealing because they thought money was endless.

The key driver of this endless spending and showing off is comparing oneself with others.

Unfortunately, despite knowing full well that stereotypes are dangerous, not many people can summon the courage to simply think differently, and thus define their own success by playing their own kind of music.

What Success is Made Of
What constitutes success?

I do not think there is a particular secret to success. Given that success itself means different things to different people in different circumstances,I strongly feel that success is a whole lot of things.

For instance, realizing several short term goals brings with it a feeling of success. Achievement in itself portrays success. Learning something new. Dreaming and having a vision inspires hope. Imagining and coming up with new ways of doing great things makes one feel successful. Creating avenues for and inspiring others to greater attainment and enlightenment is greatly fulfilling.

In line with the foregoing, success and 'making it' (whatever this means) are not only measurable through monetary means. Many elements of success are intangible. The satisfaction and ultimate fulfillment that comes with attainment are inherently of more value than money and material things.

What does success and making it mean to you?


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