Throughout my travels, the most miserable people I’ve ever known have been the successful and wannabe-successful. Some of whom I’ve met since coming to Los Angeles in early 2014. By contrast, the happiest people I’ve met have lived modest lives in Southeast Asian countries or even poorer parts of Europe.
At the same time, some of the most inspiring and happiest people I’ve met have also been the highly successful, self-actualized business owners. So what’s going on here?
I advocate for people to become successful. To reach their potentials. Everybody has dreams on the back-burner, like launching a business, traveling, becoming a pop-star, or whatever you want to become (whether cliché or not). Whatever it is, I like to see people taking deliberate strides on their paths instead of living unfulfilled lives.
When people do arrive on the other side of their ambitions, there’s a kind of spiritual awakening that occurs. The potential of a person finally comes into reality, a process that also brings a lot of people up with them. It’s very inspiring when somebody you know transforms in such a way.
However, there’s a nasty trap that most people fall into. It’s why in the majority of cases the path to success turns into misery. In summary, and this is a point often repeated in Taoist philosophy, those in the modern world seeking to carve out their own successful lives become obsessed by the destination rather than the journey.
Every possible unsavory human characteristic can rise to the surface through the desire for things like wealth, fame, and power. Often, this dark path begins with obsessive comparisons to others: “look at that guy’s car / house / spouse / annual salary / number of Twitter followers”, or even worse: making comparisons to the media / pop culture (“I won’t be satisfied until I get on TV, like the Kardashians”).
What may arise is a deep sense of entitlement: “I DESERVE the wealth / fame / attention of others because I am putting in so much massive work to get there”. This creates anger, fuels jealousy, and can result in dishonorable behavior—lying, cheating, and obsession.
If you become this influenced by the wrong edge of the blade, it will also result in a general sense of misery. It will become impossible to be happy in your own skin, because your whole identity has been crafted around the comparisons to others.
I believe this is a reason why a lot of people I meet in Los Angeles or elsewhere, clawing their way up the ladder of personal success, never make it far. All of these terrible thoughts impede their progress.
Is There a Solution?
To protect yourself, it becomes necessary to flip your perspective on life. The balance involves continual work to arrive at your destination (writing your book, going to acting auditions, seeking an agent, building your website, getting more clients, etc.), while becoming focused almost entirely on the journey instead of a desperation to reach a particular goal.
The journey itself should be fun and exciting. And that itself should be the reward. When the work pays off, and suddenly you’re booked on Good Morning America or whatever it is you desire, that can be a huge boost of morale and something extremely fun and exciting. However, when it’s done, the journey should just continue from before without obsessive thoughts about whether you’ve arrived at the destination that you desire.
Then, in addition, it’s necessary to place great emphasis on humility. Find enjoyment in the smaller things as often as you can, including even the most basic aspects of human companionship, which is something that’s always free. As part of our hierarchy of needs, we are longing for meaning in our lives. If you can obtain that much-desired sense of meaning from things that are abundant and common (like your friendships), you’ll never feel like you’re trying to fill an empty hole in your life as you desperately seek results from your path to success.
By doing this, you are essentially drawing from the philosophies of the humble-minded whom I talked about at the opening of this article. This becomes an armor that you can wear to protect yourself from falling into misery as you seek success.
Until next time,