It was late one afternoon last week when a friend and colleague, Erika, popped over to my desk to have a chat. Bright and bubbly, I enjoy her visits, tea in hand and the promise of gossip in her eyes.
I knew she’d had a tough month, predominantly because of the insensitive actions of a boy who did not deserve her affection.
In her usual style, she wandered over to me with a warm smile, perched on my desk and commenced with a monologue about how she saw herself, saying she’d been thinking a lot lately about how by now she should be ‘more successful and further ahead in her life and career’.
I objected, not just on the grounds that I’m her friend, but because of my own burning question: ‘What is the definition of being ahead?’
Predictably the response involved comparisons to what fellow university graduates from the recent class of 201…? are doing, and her reflections on the aforementioned relationship that went cold.
As someone (vaguely) older looking at her situation, I’ve seen Erika secure an excellent job in a respected business where she started working as a temp; she impressed people personally and professionally, put in a lot of hard work and has in a short space of time developed into a PR pro. She learns every day, as we all do, but continues to ride the wave gracefully.
I believe Erika’s story is impressive. For her to tell me she feels disappointed about the success that I can see clearly, well, I had to give her a loving nudge! Aside from the proud job situation, she’d also completed a Master’s degree in the past year, and diligently dealt with personal life challenges.
With age arguably comes wisdom, and I’m going to stick with that logic. I shared with Erika that from my perspective there are two important things you can use to ‘measure your success’: how happy you are, and your ability to cover expenses. Yes, if these elements need to be addressed, then do so! But when all was said and done, Erika admitted she’s happy, and can cover her rent plus purchase wine on the weekend.
‘Success’ at any age is not about comparison to what your friends are doing. Social media poses a problem for many on this front, and if you relate, switch if off for a while. If we did the same thing at the same time as our contemporaries, would we necessarily love life? No.
In my humble view, success is being happy. It is simple. It is your gratitude for life and acceptance of choices.
It is not ‘how far ahead you are’ – whatever that is supposed to mean.
Someone said to me not so long ago that I should be further ahead in my career. While I respect their opinion, that view is narrow. Granted, it is one that is still understood by a wide range of education, media, and corporate types, but it’s not relevant, especially in 2018. I’m incredibly proud of everything I’ve done – the cool, the crazy, the difficult, the brave moves that have meant my ‘career’ path has not been linear. Confidently I declare that it’s been liberating and exciting and varied.
I’ve been happy. And I pay my debts, just like a Lannister (apologies, couldn’t resist).
So, I write to “Erika” here, that aspirations are amazing and reveal passion and drive, things I stand for in life. Go after what lights you up; but turn comparison and an immediate feeling that you want more, into intention. This will bring awesome things to you in good time.
For now live in the moment, embrace it. Think about what life presently holds that you love, nurture that, and you’ll get ahead for sure.
How do you see it? Share the love with us on social media this month.