You remember pre-economic crash success. Winning. Competing. Coming out on top no matter what. Giving “110″ percent. Beating out the other person. Cheating if you had to. But winning. Maybe for a trip, a raise, or an ungodly huge bonus. That was success. If you had it, you could preen in front of colleagues or neighbors. If you didn’t, you slunk away. Ah, success was simple and sweet.
And now it’s gone. Of course there are still weasels out there who are making a fast buck on other people’s miseries. I’m sure they existed in cave times. There’s probably a picture of Ur-Weasel in the caves at Lascaux, with shifty eyes and a cheap suit.
Success looks and sounds and tastes different in this threadbare new world. You might not have a job anymore, and you still want dignity. You might have gotten fired, laid off, RIF’d, or dumped. And you want your pride back. You feel exposed and wounded. Maybe betrayed. Success vanished.
Success, in fact, never left. We just changed the definition. In the 1990s, we gave away the controls on success, and it ran off the road. We’re still cleaning up the mess.
When success was up to you, you could work hard and get it. Those were the days you defined success. Here are some ways people define success in non-traditional ways: Being honest. Harder, still, being ethical. Not just following what the law says, but being moral without a rule, without a camera watching you, without someone checking up on you. Because being ethical is part of you. Because without it, you don’t feel successful. That kind of success doesn’t add up to a fat bonus. Or a job that lets you buy anything you want.
When success was up to you, you listened to people. Talked to them not in terms of “I want what I want when I want it,” but with concern for everyone. The result, goal, or objective was never worth throwing a colleague under the bus, it was not about you. Yes, that’s right, it was not about you. It was about others’ needs, too.
Something to think about. We got here on a wave of success. On a wave of wealth and competition and greed. It’s time for a new definition for success. One we can live with.
–Quinn McDonald is a writer, life- and creativity coach. She teaches communication skills, including writing and giving presentations as well as how to make and use an art journal, even if you can’t draw.