We don’t want our hero’s to show vulnerability, because it amplifies our own. It’s uncomfortable to know, that even those who we perceive as the best among us, still have daily struggles too. It’s compounded even further, when media, and the content creators, constantly blast unrelenting motivational success memes at us. Even though in the midst of all of this, we are all struggling, each of us, to achieve even what seems like a slither of what our hero’s exclaim they have.
The thing that I have noticed on many of these motivational style videos, especially interviews, is that, and often, they quickly glance over the trouble times. “When I was young, I was poor, I had no self confidence, but then I started….” And there we sit, open mouthed, in anticipation, waiting for the secrets of their success to be revealed. And, as so many of these interviews unfold, the now successful person goes on and on about all the changes they have made, all the success tools they have implemented, and how all of that got them to where they are today, just perfect.
I don’t know about you, but I have a serious problem with this narrative. For one, many of these ‘successful people’ now have something to sell, a book, a program, a podcast, etc. Hardly ever, do I hear any of these people suggest, while they may have turned aspects of their life around, that they are still struggling in other spheres of their life. Which and with, those success tools they just told us about, aren’t working so well for them. In other words, things still need work, or things that worked before have stopped working and it’s taking time and effort to come back around.
Why wouldn’t they acknowledge that they are still struggling?
If You Are Seen As Successful: No One Want’s To Know You Struggling
They have learned, albeit possible subconsciously, that when you say you have succeeded at something, especially supposedly at something as big as life, no one wants to hear that after all that success, all that work, life is stilling kicking you in the nuts from time to time. These motivational guru’s know too, that those they are selling their wares to, don’t want to hear this either. People generally want a fail proof plane.
I have experienced this myself, albeit in a small way. In my industry of martial arts I have achieved a reasonable level of success. I never planned it that way, it just unfolded that way. I have an Academy too, where I teach weekly, and being relatively better than my students in the physical side of the fighting game, I am immediately placed higher up on the totem pole of male respect. People come to me weekly, mostly guys, asking my advice on anything from their personal fighting game, to love life (I kid you not) because “I am Rodney, I am successful and that means I must know more than them.” But, I always sit there, and as much as I try to help, I am thinking in the back of my mind, “Holy crap, if you only knew, how much of my own Freudian crap I need to deal with in my own life”.
In other words, even though I have achieved a level of success many people in my industry could only dream of, and would love to have — there are still daily barriers I need to confront (some of those hark all the way back from my childhood). And here’s the shocker, I need to tell you something: I am not perfect. I am anything but that.
But with that said, I have noticed people don’t want to know that I may be struggling, or even having a bad day. I get the sense that if they knew I was struggling, as someone they look up too, then what chance in hell do they have. This is why I believe the earlier narrative I pointed out in this article, the kind of narrative that suggest ‘the success as I am now, with no cracks’ constantly pushed upon us by YouTube, Facebook and every where else in-between is dangerous.
It’s dangerous because it’s unrealistic, and blatantly not true. It’s all a lie.
What To Do….If Anything?
Think of the life you have lived until now as over and, as a dead man, see what’s left as a bonus and live it according to Nature. Love the hand that fate deals you and play it as your own, for what could be more fitting? – Marcus Aurelius
It is clear that we all love a story of struggle to success. It gives us hope. When we see someone who had to persevere through something much greater than our own problems, and comes out the other side victorious, it gives us hope that we can do the same. And while there is nothing wrong with this, what is wrong with it, is that, at least in my own experience is that the battle is never won. As the saying goes, you win some and you lose some. And it’s always going to be that way.
I know what you waiting for….”where’s the tips Rodney?”
Here’s the thing, the only real difference between what I have achieved and someone else who didn’t, is because I pulled the trigger. I started. I knew, as I know now that success is hard work. It never gets any easier. EVER!
You have to change your narrative about success. You have to view what ever it is you want, as the difficulty it is going to be to achieve, but at the same time relish in that difficulty. If you waiting for some success guru to give you some answers you are going to be waiting for a long time. If there is anything common in successful people, is that they all got to where they are differently. The only thing they actually have in common is that they have decided what they wanted (and of course that changes over time as you achieve one thing and move to the next) and did something about it. They pulled the trigger, knowing full well, that it wasn’t going to be easy, never will be, but that’s what they relish.
By all means, look up to people, feel inspired by successful stories. But just know, no matter how they suggest that they arrived, or more so the media says they have — they haven’t, and they like everyone else are and will encounter new problems that need solving.
So if there is anything further I can say about this thing we obsess about called success in the West – it’s this. Life is suffering (as the Buddha knew all to well). He said, that Buddha guy, that life is impermanent. Until you accept that you are always going to be suffering, you are always going to suffer. As the notion goes, you can be rich today, and poor tomorrow. Some days you get it right, some days, actually for many days you might get it wrong. It happens all the time. It’s called living, it’s called life. But those who have succeeded carry on in spite of this, even when most just quit.
As such, success in any endeavor isn’t a straight line. And you know what, that’s not a bad thing. It’s not supposed to be straight. You are not supposed to get everything right. You not supposed to taste success all of the time. The very fact that it’s hard, and never gets any easier is exactly what makes it worthwhile. By accepting that life is impermanent, but you move forward anyway – is what it may all be about in the end.
All of this culminates, as best as you can in trying to live with equanimity, which means calmness and composure, especially in a difficult situations (yup this will take a lot of work). This is nothing new, the Stoics often talked about ataraxia as a goal.
Guess what it means?
A state of serene calmness!
And you going to need it, because as you will find out, or likely know already, no one ever reaches success and stays there unmoved. There’s always going to be the next thing to work on, the next challenge. Sure, as you engage with each successful challenge it gets a little easier, but you will never coast. And if you did, you wouldn’t enjoy the ride anyway — that’s just boring. No surfer his worth goes out into the waves and doesn’t want to be pushed by the sea to be their best. Baby waves are for people who don’t know how to surf.
Bottom line: Even the best among us are struggling with something and it’s okay. We shouldn’t be afraid to say we are struggling. You are struggling at times, I am struggling at times, but this doesn’t make us any less than anyone else. Rather we are all having the human experience. Just because we may be struggling from time to time, doesn’t actually make us any less of a success. The fact that we are willing to engage in, and not run from our struggles, is what makes all of us hero’s already.
No person has the power to have everything they want, but it is in their power not to want what they don’t have, and to cheerfully put to good use what they do have. – Seneca