Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Rethinking Success

When I am behind schedule and notice that I am going to miss the bus, I run. I run fast, so fast that I leave the speedy, blue Sonic the Hedgehog in the dust. There is little thinking involved, since there is no time for hesitation. But then, the other day I stopped in the middle of the running. I paused to think philosophically, although I was in the middle of the intersection. I know that sounds strange and dangerous, but something hit me, something inside of me told me to stop.

"Why am I running?" I thought. "Well, of course, I am running because I don't want to be late," I said to myself. "But why do I care so much about not being late?" Again, I tried to reassure myself that there was a perfectly logical reason for running. "Because its impolite and unprofessional to arrive late to a college course, especially one for my major," I replied, and feeling partly satisfied with my response, I nodded approvingly. Even after this internal conversation, I felt that the answer was still partly unclear to me. There was something deeper driving me to run day after day.

I felt that I was running because I was chasing something, most immediately the bus, so that it could transport me to school, and more gradually the "American Dream." But what is the "American Dream" exactly? Does it simply mean success? If so, what is success? Is it material wealth
—a lot of money, a nice car, a beautiful house, a cool phone? Is it a job that pays a big salary and provides health insurance?

You see, so much attention is paid to fulfilling the American Dream. But too little attention is paid to the journey, the path, the truly illuminating experiences that show our
resiliency, our strength, our courage, our unwavering spirit. The end result—whatever it may be, success or failure, happiness or misery—is only but a symbol of the journey, of the adventure, of the voyage of life.

So as I have recognized, I hope you too recognize that success itself is meaningless unless the journey to success is enjoyed, celebrated, and appreciated. I also caution the audience on one other point: Don't merely define success through material terms. Unfortunately, for far too long in American society, that's what has happened. That's the poverty of success. That's the emptiness of the American Dream.

My point is not to criticize these great American ideals. My point is, rather, to get us to rethink how we define them. What is the American Dream? What is success? How we answer those questions will determine the type of society we will create in the future. Up until now, success has been defined through an economic lens. And that, in my opinion, explains why the souls of Americans have been filled with such hollowness, why greediness has characterized most Americans, why thousands sleep in the street on cold Christmas nights, and why millions don't have health insurance.

In my perspective, success should be defined through an emotional lens. Success should be about achieving peace with oneself and others, and more importantly, it should be about achieving happiness. Now, here is the tricky part: How do we define happiness, a vague yet important word which we hear often? That's another question we'll need to answer.

2 comments:

Taz said...

I completely agree.

Utty2388 said...

"You see, so much attention is paid to fulfilling the American Dream. But too little attention is paid to the journey, the path, the truly illuminating experiences that show our resiliency, our strength, our courage, our unwavering spirit. The end result—whatever it may be, success or failure, happiness or misery—is only but a symbol of the journey, of the adventure, of the voyage of life."



Thought-provoking & quite inspiring, to say the least!