Warning: naughty language ahead.
We exist within socio-cultural paradigms.
They are prevalent and predominant attitudes and ways of being that are acceptable and defined as “normal” that surround us and influence our way of being in the world.
I see many distinct paradigmatic bubbles floating through our current time in history, often even crammed into the same city. You, the dear readership of elephant journal, share one of these bubbles that I proudly recognise myself in also. I see us as intelligent, thoughtful, progressive and increasingly spiritual.
These are wonderful and important things that as a whole we absolutely need our world to be moving toward and yet, like a seagull picking through a polluted beach, there is a lot of crap that we often find ourselves entangled with.
This detritus, that belongs to prior earlier paradigms, also called “memes” by the developmental works of Spiral Dynamics, can cause so much pain within a being yearning to move forward into the future that wants to emerge.
One of these major pieces of detritus that needs to be outgrown (and integrated), I think, is the pursuit of success.
I think the rampant and unchecked need to be successful, to prove ourselves as worthy through the now pathological conquest of the world is a big fucking problem.
The pursuit of success blinds us in so many ways. It blinds us to the waste products of our endeavours as we relentlessly do whatever it is we can to achieve and be recognised. Because that is what success is, it is a measure against something. At its most damaging it is a measure against others, that for us to be successful others have to fail at success.
We can’t all be successful, can we?
Does our current worldview have space for that possibility? I don’t think so. Success is also a measure against ourselves—are we more successful than we were last year? Do we have more money? Better status? A hotter wife? A more loving partner? A fancier car? A bigger house? More zeros on our annual income? What?
For those of us who hold a lot more compassion and love in our hearts, the fulfillment of material goods has already become empty. Instead we now often search for success in how much we can contribute to the world.
A beautiful and well-meaning intention to serve, and to give—yet, more often than not this heartfelt desire gets distorted and becomes just another measure. Rather than being defined by your possessions, you become defined by your contributions. If you aren’t adding to this world in some beautiful, spiritual and magical way then basically, you suck.
There is a new coat of paint yet the old rust is still slowly corroding the soul. It is nothing but more grasping, grasping for something outside of you to define you, to give you meaning and hope and purpose for your life.
Along the way of this endless grasping for something more, something better, something meaningful, something to contribute to the world we actually end up doing untold damage to ourselves and this world. We judge and compare, we consume and we shame both ourselves and others.
Success, and its sneaky little counterpart “financial abundance,” have insinuated themselves deeply into our spiritual world. They show up with those great intentions to give and to love. Yet, oh my, what pain I have felt in myself and seen in others through this well-meaning urge!
As has been said “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” The crushing shame that what I am doing is not enough and that I could, and should, be doing more…always more. The world needs me, or some such bullshit.
Then there is the spiritually orientated financial abundance movement.
I’m a spiritual dude, I’ve done plenty of self-work and learned a ton of good stuff and so I should be abundant from that concept. How much am I worth? Let’s add some zeros to that, because the more I charge the more people will want what I am giving. I’m not making enough, perhaps I should examine my limiting beliefs around money. Throw in a few spoons of fear and a dollop of shame and we have a great recipe for a product that is highly addictive. Hooray! Now I make my money from telling others that they too can make lots of it. Kinda of a weird way of promoting a spiritually abundant life, I think.
You know what, I’ve had enough of all that heaviness.
There’s so much need to make it somehow—so I am saying “fuck success!” Fuck financial abundance. You can take all of that stuff and stick it where the sun don’t shine. I love the sun, but I don’t need that shit, not anymore. I am not, and never have been, defined by worth. I can’t be defined by worth and I can’t be worthless, I just am.
This is where things get tricky because I’m not saying financial abundance is bad. I’m not saying success is bad. I’m saying our relationship to these things, like all things, can be evolved and matured. We can transcend the limited perspectives that success is important or a measure of our worth in this life. The pursuit of success and the pursuit of financial abundance (and even the pursuit of happiness) are all immature perspectives.
Let’s grow up, shall we?
For the human species, a success oriented paradigm has been immensely valuable. It got us to where we are now, which is amazing. As a species we have now encompassed the globe and are increasingly interconnected in a literal way.
The cost has been high, though. Our world is suffering and hurting badly. This planet is in such a state that we have literally created the possibility for our own extinction, as well as the majority of other species too. How incredibly fucking selfish is that?
For those of us evolving beings, it is up to us to create an entirely new possibility for humans to co-exist on the planet. Let’s not just keep revolving around the same old selfish shit.
When you make more money, you literally add to wide-scale destruction. Money is currently not benign, as much as we would like to believe it is. Money, as we currently use it, is situated within a paradigm that exchanges resources dug out of the earth for labour and creativity.
The more money we have in circulation, the more stuff needs to be dug out of the earth.
Yes it is just an energy, yet it also represents something quite specific and the way it currently works is a problem. Abundance is great, yet abundance measured in terms of our current currency—not so much.
Success is situated within a paradigm that ranks us in order of best to worst. The best of us are the most successful and, sorry, if you aren’t successful it just means you really aren’t very good at life. Sadly that is about 99 pecent of us.
And so I call bullshit. I say fuck success.
Evolution as I know it is all about transcending and including. This means to grow beyond the perspectives that once were, while we also include everything healthy and valuable about them. How can we transcend and include success?
Grow beyond success. It doesn’t define you one bit.
You are an absolutely 100 percent unique human being. In fact you are already successful. You do you better than anyone else in the world and you always will. It’s not about comparing your contributions against others or even yourself. It’s not about fame and recognition. It’s not about financial abundance and having the selfish freedom to do whatever the fuck you want regardless of the cost.
It’s about you, just you: showing up, discovering what you love and living a life filled with inner joy.
It’s about having the freedom to create a life you love simply because you can and to be completely responsible for every single aspect of it. None of that is dependant on who knows you, how much money you make or how much you believe you do or do not contribute. Not one bit.
Let go. Let go of that drive to achieve something and be already achieved right now. Let yourself be.
Create when you want to create. Contribute when it moves through you, and if it doesn’t right now that is totally fine too. Lie in a hammock reading books when you want to. Sleep in. Give yourself permission to do nothing. Laugh. Love others. Love yourself.
Become truly successful by transcending the need for success and the limited, shaming, painful ideas that it is important to your worth as a human being.
How much do you really need?
For me it’s pretty simple: good food, good friends, a roof over my head and lots of nature.
Everything else is a bonus.
How small and joyfully can you live?
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Damien Bohler
Editor: Catherine Monkman