A lot has been written lately about David McCullough Jr.’s “You are not special. You are not exceptional” speech recently at Wellesley High School’s graduation, most recently this NY Times Article and this blog post now going viral. I think this has really hit home with me as it’s something I’ve been slowly working my way through myself the past year or so as I’ve made some pivotal life decisions. As my 30th birthday quickly approaches, I’m realizing more and more that it’s the journey and not the destination. When you are younger, success was much easier to measure and attain. Make the honor roll, win a baseball game, do well on the SAT’s, get into college, etc.. For better or worse, there weren’t many other factors that our peers or parents judged us by.
Post college, things started to get a lot more interesting. Am I successful if I have a big title? Make a lot of money? Do something that I truly enjoy? Own a big house? Avoid Corporate America all together and live off the grid? Start a family? Volunteer my time? Go to grad school? Defining success is no longer as straightforward and can be attained through many more avenues than when we were younger. This actually is comforting, especially to those who were never great at the school thing (irregardless of intelligence) or very good athletes.
I wish I had the silver bullet, but I don’t. Instead I’ve realized that I need to pursue what makes me happy, which may or may not fall in line with societal norms. I’ve seen too many folks with big titles and huge salaries that aren’t happy, too little compassion for others, too many floating through life with no meaningful or long term relationships to others, and too many people that can never stop and smell the roses. I want to never stop learning, improve my focus on relationships with those who I care the most about, care for the greater good even if it has to come at my expense, keep an open mind, and travel more of the world continuously remind me to be thankful for the gifts I’ve been given.
What does success mean to you?