Painting in broad brush strokes, I will generalise and say that humans are wired to seek out success. The rat race inspires us to strive for the corner office, the latest model car, the smart and good looking partner, the 7 digit bonus, the flight in seat 2A. The hypothesis I’d like to test is:
“Winning at work means losing at life.”
Each day we’re elbow to elbow jostling to get ahead of the guy next to you. But if you surveyed a cross section of the South African workforce, I’m quite sure you’re sure to find some pretty unhappy people. And I’m guessing that this could be for two major reasons – they’re either unhappy in their job, but have bills to pay and the Jones’s to keep up with. Or, they could be successful, but be disheartened by the paradox that is interconnected with being “successful.”
To really earn your pound of flesh in a work environment, to lead a business ahead of it’s competitors, and ultimately stand out as a “success” in the stereotypical sense, you’ve got to be sacrificing something. This could be the balance in your life, leading you to walk down the road of being a workaholic. You could be letting life pass you by, as you doggedly commit yourself entirely to research and delivery. Performance realised by your peers and seniors drives further responsibility, leading to more demands on you and your time, and raising the bar at even your own game. People now expect you to constantly succeed – a new pressure. So where does that leave the rat race? Working ten to twelve hour days for the year, and then taking their pale skins, dark eyes and new Range Rover Sport off to Trouteng or the Western Cape for their 20 days of leave? Sounds a little sad.
My take on it? I guess with a little bit of guilt in the department of over working and letting life slide past, I’m of the opinion that the perceived success factors of society do not lend themselves to leading a balanced and happy life. Life, as I’ve recently been clearly reminded of, is short, and it is precious. It can literally change entirely in 24 hours. So is it worth spending entirely focussed on one particular aspect?
Helping others less fortunate than me is something that gets me very excited. I would be comfortable to say that for the money I’ve earned in my life, that which has been best spent is on others. But helping a community doesn’t feature high on society’s list of ways to be successful, does it? Or would you feel in perfect balance if you drove your Aston Martin into Diepsloot and go and teach maths to a class of Grade 10 learners? The more I think about the topic the more intricate and difficult it becomes…
So where I’m at is trying to figure out a new balance for my own life. Where work and mental challenge is important, but so is everything else we’re able to enjoy during our time on earth. I do think that those blessed with an ability to think bigger owe it to society to really contribute to human knowledge and drive upliftment. But I don’t want to miss out on friends, family and seeing and experiencing the pleasures, fears and amazing sights of nature and human creation.
So the three ways I’m looking at “achieving success” are through these main areas:
- Align my goals to my passions, where work is fun. To my mind, it’s a good thing to get up and enjoy what you do every work day.
- Cultivating charismatic optimism, ultimately looking on the bright side of life. I’ve only ever really seen optimists get better results because they remain passionately focused on finding solutions in the face of appalling odds. People who are full of excuses normally end up fat and grumpy.
- I want to keep learning, keeping an inquiring mind and getting a better understanding of the world around me.
So I might not subscribe to the stereotypical success measurables. But if I think I’m successful – then hell – I’m successful. Who cares what everyone else thinks.
I’ll keep you posted on progress. But I’d love to hear how you keep balance in your life.