“The interesting thing about success is that our ideas about what it would mean to live successfully are not our own.” ~ Alain de Botton

What is your definition of success?

Everyone these days likes to blog, talk, youtube, text, ponder, wonder, write, type, and personify themselves in what seems like an endless quest to find the illusive feeling of “Success” and all it has to offer. These days especially it seems as though the best creator of value is the end all be all.

Create Value = Success


Life is a pilgrimage and the person who provides the most value, wins! Right?

Maybe that’s true. It certainly is good to provide value to others. I strive to daily. It seems everyone does. I get a good feeling inside by knowing I helped someone discover a helpful productivity app, teach someone something they had not know about a particular topic, motivated them to grow as a person, or assisted in guiding them to see things from an angle they hadn’t prior.

Maybe success is providing value. Let’s look a little bit deeper into this. While we all strive for what seems to be our own meanings of what success is, I wanted to drop in and make a few points that in today’s climate are easily overlooked. But most importantly they’re relevant to you. Yes…you. Right now.

1. Be vigilant about what Success means to you

Success and enlightenment are all too often confused. We have to acknowledge that people have different definitions of success.

A question I often ask people is:

“Once you have “Success” will you be satisfied?”

And to piggyback on that…What does Success mean to you? Is it helping others? Is it having a stable job? Is it marriage? Is it fame? Is it money? Is it family? Is it providing value?

Columnist Matt Lim of Elite Daily writes:

A lot of people don’t realize that while money is necessary, it is insufficient for happiness. Just like with fame, it is better to have a sense of support than to be known within a community that doesn’t support you, or care about you.

In I wrote about Attachment Theory and how often we don’t attach to others in a healthy way. We try to attach to them in an idealized version of how we want them to be,. When I Lim’s quote I realized suddenly that we often fail have our own attachment to success in a healthy way just as we do people. All too easily we put ourselves in danger of an idealized form of success that life thrusts upon us. We don’t make it our own. Success needs to be personal.

2. Success Might Be Current (not future)

What if the goal in life is to live through our journey and enjoy the moments rather than to see it as this arduous trek towards self-fulfillment? Is it possible success is being present? Is it possible that our definition of Success might just be around us this very second?

I want to look at a passage from philosopher Alan Watts and it’s follow up video:

It is best understood by analogy with music. Because music as an art form is essentially playful. We say you play the piano. You don’t work the piano. Why? Music differs from say travel. When you travel you are trying to get somewhere.

One doesn’t make the end of the composition the point of the composition. If that were so the best conductors would be those that play fastest. And there would be composers that wrote only finales. People would go to concerts just to hear one crashing cord. Because that’s the end! When dancing you don’t aim at a particular spot in the room that’s where you should arrive. The whole point of the dancing is the dance.

We thought of life by analogy with a journey; with a pilgrimage. Which had a serious purpose at the end and the thing was to get to that end. Success or whatever it is or maybe heaven after you’re dead. But we missed the point the whole way along. It was a musical thing and you were suppose to sing or to dance while the music was being played.

Try to see life more as a dance and stay present. Success is the butterfly that comes in lands on your shoulder when you’re looking the other way. If you are living moment to moment and not tirelessly focusing on what is ahead you may quickly realize there’s much to cherish in the present.

3. Self-Worth is often overlooked while striving to provide value

We need to be a little more careful about value. What if it’s not so much about the value others are providing as it is discovering what it is that makes you valuable? Self-discovery is not necessarily linear. Self Discovery comes from doing and doing comes from staying present as Alan Watts pointed out. To live in the moment. But what is behind your value? What drives you? Self-worth easily gets lost in the fold. Never lose your self-worth while trying to provide value.

The tale of Icarus and Daedalus is a good example of having balance in life and also maintaining one’s self worth.

Seeking to escape exile from the island of Crete, Daedalus looked to the heavens as the only route open to him and his son, Icarus. So, Daedalus crafted two pairs of wings from feathers and wax.

Before taking flight, Daedalus warned his son: ” Take care to fly halfway between the sun and the sea. If you fly too high, the sun’s heat will melt the wax that binds your wings. If you fly too low, the sea’s mist will dampen the feathers that give you lift. Instead, aim for the middle course and avoid extremes.”

However, Icarus was exhilarated by his newfound power of flight. he soared high into the heavens, ignoring his father’s warning. Soon, the sun melted the wax that bonded his wings.

Icarus fell from the sky, followed by the gentle wafting feathers that held him in flight, and he was swallowed by the swelling seas.

Icarus got overly excited about his newfound power. There’s a lesson here. What do you think it is? I think it’s about keeping the balance in your life but I also think it’s about staying true to who you are and not being lured by the various things life throws at us. It’s important to have balance. People get so caught up these days on their idea of success and also providing value to others that they forget who they are. While providing value is important, self-worth is easily left behind. You have to trust the value in you. Lots of people like to think life is simply go to work and provide value. Well, that is part of the puzzle sure. But to me, it’s also about staying true to who I am. My thoughts, goals, and dreams and also maintaining my ethics, personal values, and morals. These are the things that are underneath my work and the way I provide value. Healthy trees don’t grow if the dirt isn’t properly fertilized.

What brings one strength and motivates you to get up in the morning is your inner core. Think about that. I like to think of the work you are doing and the value you provide as a vessel. Your inner beliefs and values are are the spark plug that ignites your vessel. Just being you is enough. We easily forget one half of the battle. While building ourselves and growing is important, not making ourselves to be more than we really are can easily cause us, like Icarus, to burn. Stay true to you.

Our value is an organic crop. It often happens naturally because of our own thoughts, beliefs, morals, goals, and dreams.

The core of who you are is not something that should be discovered. It’s something that should be recognized and THEN grown. There’s a difference between discovering something and recognizing something. While discoveries do happen and often should happen, let’s not forget the idea of recognizing. If too much of your time is spent trying to figure out what to be or how to be, you are acting against what it is that makes you, you. You’re too easily persuaded against your own core.

Value often comes in accident. We humans like to try to be something we not. There’s a big difference between growth and putting a manufactured image of ourselves up to the world because we think that is providing the most value. The bottom line is stay mindful and don’t lose yourself in the process!

Be vigilant about what success means to you, keep enjoying the journey, stay balanced, recognize your self-worth, and understand value.

“Don’t try to be a billionaire, it’s overrated” — Bill Gates

By Geoff Pilkington

You can connect with me on my website at www.geoffreypilkington.com

Originally published at medium.com