In my earlier post, it was implicitly assumed that everyone has a common understanding of what “success” means. But of course, success is relative and subjective.
And I think that it is very wise to have, and to pursue, your own subjective definitions of success, rather than society’s, or your parents’, or someone else’s. Because it is, after all, your own life.
My idea of success (which you certainly don’t have to agree with or subscribe to) is based on an “all-round” model. I like to divide life up into seven or eight broad areas – eg “family”; “career”; “health”; “finances”; “spiritual” etc – and consider how I’m doing.
If I were doing very well in one or two areas, but very badly in one or two others, I would not consider myself to be very successful. To me, success means that every major area of my life must at least be on an even keel.
If everything is at least on an even keel, then I can start thinking of how I can do even better in one, two or three particular areas. (Simultaneously pursuing greater heights in all seven or eight areas will just lead to burnout).
Most of the time, the major personal crises that people have did not suddenly happen overnight. They usually started off as small, harmless-looking seeds that were left unaddressed and grew slowly, slowly into large monsters. Examples would be divorces, bankruptcies and heart attacks.
Don’t let the bad seeds grow too much, before you decide to fix them. Most problems are easily solved, if you nip them in the bud. But once they reach monster size, they can bite your hand off when you try to tackle them.
For example, don’t wait till you’re 85 kg and have a heart attack, before you decide to take better care of your health.
Major personal successes also usually do not happen overnight. They may appear to. But if you look closely, you will see that they too were the result of many little things that happened over a long period of time. Ahh, now you see the importance of persistence and patience.
In my Personal Investigations Into The Nature of My Universe, I have seen that ultimately one area of my life matters more than the rest. It is the overarching theme under which all the other areas fall. This area - I call it “Spiritual”.
So far I have not been that successful here. But hey, I’m still trying. More on this, another time, perhaps. In the meantime, it’s persistence and patience again.
In Singapore, success in life is typified by the five C’s. That is very shallow. Take it as the lowest common denominator in everyday parlance, for Singaporeans to make conversation about success. Treat the 5 C’s like last week’s weather - something to chat about at a party.
But don’t take the 5 C’s as your personal benchmark to measure your life against.
Why cheat yourself? Life is a lot more than that. Choose your own definitions.
I'll end with an excerpt from Steve Jobs' best-ever speech:
Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
[Describes his personal encounter with cancer]
... This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope its the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:
No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.
Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.