I asked my four-year-old nephew what he wanted to be in future. He declared that he wanted to be a builder. His mother was startled and she almost made him swallow his tongue in order to take back what he had said. Surely my nephew must know that he ‘wants’ to be a doctor just like his father.
So now my nephew must learn to want to be a doctor. If he doesn’t become a doctor, it should only be because he is a lawyer or a pilot or an engineer. But certainly not a builder. He has got to become a successful person and make his parents proud.
But who is a successful person? There is a plethora of literature on success and the biggest percentage of it revolves around money, power and glory.
The advice found in literature on success is mostly given by people who can afford to coat their beds with real gold. They have a president’s telephone number on speed dial. Their names evoke envy and wishful thinking. So naturally and subconsciously, we use those people as yardsticks for measuring success.
Nobody wants to hear from a nobody about success. Nobody wants to hear the thoughts of a man who has never so much as taken a picture at an airport. No. Apparently, success is only success if it is glamorous and showy.
So the teacher who has spent his whole life passionately dispensing knowledge is not considered successful. Not even if teaching was his childhood dream.
The story of a woman who devoted her whole life to raising loving, responsible and kind childrendoesn’t really count. A successful, admirable woman is the one who has beaten the odds to become the first female CEO in a male-dominated profession.
The couple that is living a modest life overflowing with love is not newsworthy. Yes we want a love like theirs. But a love story is only inspiring if it begins in a one-roomed house and somehow through many dangers, toils and snares,ends in a mansion.Of course, we are hypocritical enough to insist that love is the most important thing.
So in the end, out of the billions of people on the planet, only a handful of people are ‘successful.’ The rest of us buy one book after another with the hope that if we do what ‘successful’ people did, we will get where they are. We turn into competitive envious people hurting each other in what seems like an unending rat race.
A lot of people die feeling unfulfilled. It is not because they were not successful but because their idea of success was completely skewed.
It’s not their fault. It’s not anybody’s fault really. It is the system’s fault. The system tells us that we can’t want anything. We must aspire to be rich and powerful and renowned. To do something worth remembering.To leave a legacy.
Nobody tells us that success can be simple and ordinary. Or that success is personal and therefore shouldn’t have a yardstick.