Looking for Something Other than Success

When I was in college there was a program housed in the building next to mine that billed itself a “leadership training program”. I was always amazed by that term. With the obliviousness of someone who was born bossy, I assumed that you were either born a leader or you weren’t.

There’s a certain style of self-help which could all be subtitled “How to be successful”. I know better than to think that people are either born successful or they’re not. There are too many factors at play: environment, finances, skills, training. There are certainly ways to become more successful. My question is “why would I want to?”

Because success is usually framed in terms of money and influence, I find most of these suggestions rather tasteless. I want to be financially independent – does that mean that I should want to be a millionaire? I can find plenty of advice on how to attract readers to my blog or gain Twitter followers, but I’m not sure that’s what I’m looking for.

What’s the point in influence, what’s the gain of followers, if I don’t have anything to share, or if I don’t live a life worth following. I wrote that before remembering that it has been said before: “What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” (Mt 16:26)

The best audition dress won’t get me the gig if I haven’t learned how to sing. No amount of facebook “likes” will give me integrity. And though snazzy titles and pictures might gain me blog readers, like you dear friends, if I waste my energy on developing those and reading up on how to suck you in, I may never do the living I must in order to find something to say.

It’s not that I don’t want to be “successful”, whatever that means, but that I don’t want to make that my goal. My goal is to be loving and thoughtful and creative and whole, and that is task enough. I simply cannot pour endless effort into making people think well of me. Even if I had the bandwith for that, I’m not sure I’d be comfortable with it.

Similarly, I’m not comfortable with books and articles that tell me “how to be a success”. It’s not that I don’t want to be successful, but that I want more than that. I have to trust that if I put my effort in the right places, I’ll find what I’m looking for.

What are you looking for?

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