I’m probably the 193,921,285,537th person who has written about how to be successful.
I love the topic. Self-improvement is just like any other form of philosophy — a ton of varying opinions with no true consensus.
Let’s put aside the “how to be successful” debate for a second and talk about you.
Do you feel successful?
Do you want more success?
How much do you think your desires are dictated by your internal state as opposed to you being convinced by people like me that success is something you should want?
Should you try to get rich? Or should you just renounce all your possessions and meditate nine hours a day?
Is self-improvement a futile exercise in ephemeral narcissistic desires and ambitions? Or is it the cheat-code to life — the gateway drug to true spiritual growth?
I want you to explore that for yourself. I welcome disagreement. I have one of but many worldviews. Take the parts of my message you like and use them. Discard everything else.
I look at how to be successful from two different angles. Both are important and have a symbiotic relationship with each other. People suffer when they focus on one over the other, and definitely when they focus on neither.
Worldly measures of success can be, and often are, hollow. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t come into play at all when it comes to measuring your progress. Without metrics to see how well you’re doing, how would you know how well you’re doing?
Say you want to start a business. You make the best product you possibly can, finely crafted, something you’re truly proud of. But nobody buys it. Are you successful just because you put your heart and soul into your product? Good intentions can’t pay your bills, nor are they always the proper way to measure your own success.
You don’t want to get caught up in the numbers, but you also want to put numbers of the board and get tangible outcomes in your life. Why? Because if you totally ignore metrics of success — money, audience, what you see in the mirror, resources, reaching goals you aimed for, etc– you can fall under the delusion that you should be able to do whatever you want and get rewarded for it.
Writers are a classic example. Many claim they’re not ‘sell-outs’ but the reality is that nobody wants to read their work. They balk at commercially successful writers, but creating commercial success is an art form in an of itself.
Creating worldly success, in general, is an art form in and of itself.
You should try to build an amazing platform or following just to see if you can do it. You should try to make a lot of money just to see what it takes to make a lot of money — creativity, resourcefulness, adaptability, empathy. That last one is key.
See, many people who claim they don’t want to be successful are really saying they don’t have the level of empathy to understand other people and get them to do what they want them to do.
They put up a veneer of martyrdom and piety to hide their self-centeredness. Minus the rent-seekers of the world and the occasional scam artist, to become successful in a worldly context often involves figuring out what people want and giving it to them.
You should learn how to be successful simply because, the context of most ‘successful’ activities like building a business, an audience, or a movement, it teaches you to put yourself in other people’s shoes.
It also teaches you about yourself.
You think you know what you want, but how much of that is rationalization?
You think you know what you’re capable of, but you don’t.
You should be mindful of how you become successful. You should be mindful of how you make your money. Most people use binary thinking as a coping mechanism. They create ‘either-or’ scenarios to absolve them of personal responsibility.
Success is one of these areas — either you’re a greedy, status-seeking, shallow narcissist or you’re a pious, ‘content,’ and generous human being by way of your inaction.
There are so many scenarios in the middle. The proper path to success involves running up that external scoreboard in a way that makes you feel good about your internal scoreboard.
Take my career for example. Primarily, I make my income by writing articles on a website where people say $5/month to read them. I spent a half-decade building my writing skills to be able to make a six-figure living from that platform. I feel amazing about the way I earn my money and consider it a win-win for everyone. When I spend a year working on a book, I’m not bashful about selling it. When I take so much time on my own cultivating the knowledge I have, I feel good about sharing it with others and charging for it.
You can have a moral compass and worldly success at the same time. You can be a good person and get rich at the same time.
So how do you become successful without ‘selling your soul’?
You don’t have to become a millionaire to be successful. You don’t need a six-pack, a Lamborghini, or a mansion. So what do you need?
My definition of success is pretty simple – just don’t fall extremely short of your dreams and aspirations.
Most people fall extremely short.
Nobody dreams of having a lukewarm relationship with their work, just enough income to scrape by, and a total lack of freedom. Nobody wants that. People who live that way feel like they have to, period.
There are so many outcomes that are well above the way most people live that have nothing to do with being uber-rich. If you really love art and you really want to be an artist, any other job is a failure, even if you make more money. $50,000 a year painting is better than $500,000 as a c-suite exec if art is your true passion. Leveling up from flipping burgers to learning a trade to owning a business based on that trade with a staff of your own and exiting the day to day so you have your freedom back is successful. Starting a little affiliate marketing blog that makes $96,000 a year and gives you time to screw off and play video games, instead of playing video games after your shitty 9 to 5 to cope, is successful.
You’re selling yourself short.
For what? Because you don’t want to take risks? Having a sole source of income you can’t control is extremely risky. Putting yourself in a low-level constant state of anxiety with your crappy job where you use food, drugs, and alcohol to cope mixed with stress can kill you. Pretty risky.
For who? Because you’re afraid of what people think? Does your soul lie in the hands of others? Do they own you?
Everybody wants to be a part of self-improvement on some level. Everyone wants to be successful on some level. We all have that mixture of that internal and external scoreboard we want to achieve.
The ones who pretend they don’t? The cool nonchalant ones who don’t need to be successful? Well, I’d love to have a chat with them when they’re 80 years old and reflect back on life.
Learning how to become successful is a hedge against the type of lifestyle where you scrape by day by day, letting a little bit of your soul get sliced off, barbecues with Jim and Mary across the street.
I don’t know. Maybe I’m dramatic. Or maybe I’m deadly accurate.
Up to you to decide.