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November 4, 2019
Word of the Week: Success
One of my favorite parts about our recent trip to Denver, CO was the question “What do you do for work?” almost never came up. We would meet people and talk about the best hikes in the area, where we went running, and the latest CBD-infused drink we tried before we talked about work. It was such a stark contrast from either of the most recent places Andrew and I have lived, the Bay Area and NYC.
This trip highlighted in a whole new way how much I equated self-worth with work. In a city where work seemed secondary to life, I felt completely thrown off. How do you measure a “successful” life when work is no longer at the core?
As the trip went on, I started to notice the different ways people seemed to measure “success.” Success looked like hitting the mountains on the weekend. Cooking delicious meals at home. Family outings to the farmer’s market. Meeting up with friends at the local brewery. Taking a nap in the park. The more I observed, the more I realized that instead of “prestige” or “status” or “wealth” or “titles,” Denver’s measure of success seemed to be: play.
It felt like a revolutionarily different way to live life. And I freaking loved it. I loved not giving my elevator pitch. I loved not feeling inferior because of my career choices. I loved not being consumed by the hustle. I loved not having superficial BS “networking” conversations and instead, connecting with people on a real, deep, human-to-human level. It was such a breath of fresh air.
It was liberating to see so many people give themselves permission to play. It made me re-think my priorities and confront my own self-judgments around making time to play. As much inner work as I’ve done, I still find it’s hard to just chill out and enjoy myself (as I write this at 10pm on a Friday night). If I have a free moment, my first instinct is still to fill it with work. Part of this is because I genuinely love the work that I do. The other part, however, is wrapped up in some sort of fear around “getting behind” and the false idea that I am somehow “less worthy” if I don’t meet whatever arbitrary career milestone I’ve set for myself. The conditioning runs deep.
While I’m still disentangling my own biases, I have been thinking a lot about what “success” looks and feels like to me, underneath everything I’ve been told by society. Is it what I thought it was? It is something else entirely? Is it okay if one day it looks one way, and the next it looks another? Does it change based upon the people I’m around?
As I grapple with these questions, I keep coming back to one thing: I just want to be happy.
Ask Yourself: What were you taught about “success” and how to achieve it? Does this match what makes you happy?
Weekly Mantra: I am the only one who gets to define my success.