I’m going to give my age away early. I’m 24. I don’t have seven figures in the bank, I don’t have a mortgage, and you know what? I don’t even have a car. Let me tell you something, though:
I’m not following the ‘seven steps to success’ article you may have read else. And, I’m not doing the ‘five things I MUST consider to be successful’ article either. But most importantly perhaps, is that I’m not comparing myself to you, whoever you are.
Why would I?
Why would the life I live make me more successful than you?
See, I do a few things: I’m an international speaker, founder of DRYVER, and even an author. The thing about my life is that there is very little structure and hardly any predictability. If you’ve seen the Jerry Seinfeld bit about public speaking, you’d know that public speaking is such a fear that statistically people would rather be in the box at the back of the room than giving the eulogy as it is rated a higher fear than death.
But here is the thing. I love it. I love my life, the craziness of being on some 90 flights this year, and never being in the same place for more than a few days at a time.
Something tells me you don’t think that is successful.
Hey. That’s ok!
Because for me, success has always been something that has been tied to financial status, education level, material accumulation, and the title of the jobs we hold.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating against any of those things, I’m just saying that at no point in my life am I going to be in an office crunching numbers for 90 hours a day to make a quarter million a year. That isn’t happiness to me. That isn’t successful for me. I just couldn’t do it.
That said, I also couldn’t teach a class of 7-year-olds, couldn’t work in a hospital, wouldn’t be able to do the work associated with holding a Police badge, and couldn’t do the work do be a Lawyer.
You might love the things I don’t. And I might love the things you don’t. This is why we can be equally successful but in completely different ways. We can both find happiness through the work we are doing and the lives we are able to live as a result.
So why is is that we suggest that success is the same for one person as it might be for another?
Why is it that we fail to consider happiness when we think about success?
Why is it that if I walk down a path that society tells me isn’t ‘the norm’, that I’m perceived as less successful?
I write this because we all have an opportunity to be our own kind of successful. But I also write this because I want to give a little more substance than to just tell you to ‘blaze your own trail’ or to ‘follow your dreams’.
This is 2016. Instagram account are full of motivational quotes. Tweets ‘inspire’ us from those who we dream to be, and Facebook content repeatedly tells us that the people around us are happier than we are, and we default to thinking that we are inferior, that we need to do better, and we become anxious as a result.
I think hard about the posts I see, the job descriptions that are being posted, and the path that I’m walking down. In most cases, the content I see online and the smiles and laughs I see might not be as big if I were in the same place as they are.
And so I try and approach things a little different.
I strive not to be doing what they’re doing, I strive to chase the happiness I see in their faces knowing that I can achieve that same happiness in my own way. This, to me, is success.
I’m not on the pursuit of happiness; I’m trying to find happiness in the pursuit. If I can live a life that allows you and I to do so, I think we can both be our own kind of successful.
I’m on my path and proud of it. I’m working on being happy, and finding success through the life I’m able to live. My hopes are that if we can change the conversation on success, we can all live a happier life.
Well. It has to be. We’re living in a world where we have to state that something is true before we say it.
Why does it have to be that way?
At risk of offending other people, and in the interest of being transparent (the other word of 2016) and authentic (SEE! HERE IT IS AGAIN!) I’m going to use myself. I don’t have anything to hide, right?
No, I don’t. But that doesn’t mean that the version of me you know is authentic either.
Take a look at my LinkedIn profile for example. Some of you may look at it and think ‘meh’, and others might think I’m doing alright for a 24-year-old entrepreneur, speaker, and thought-leader. When you see it though, you don’t really know who I am, what I’m like, or what it might be like to be around me. In other words, my LinkedIn profile is only a partial representation of who I am.
Now take a look at my Facebook profile. Nice. Quite a few ‘friends’ there, some goofy pictures perhaps, and a wall full of… well, no, part of me.
Finally, take a look at my Instagram page. Well, this isn’t really me at all. Just a bunch of landscapes and the odd picture of a blonde guy in a new place in the world doing what he loves to do. That’s what I want you and the rest of the world to see. That isn’t authentic.
Yes, these are all me. But this isn’t the same me that you get when I’m sharing a glass of Gamay Noir (2014, best year) with my girlfriend on the balcony at the cabin. The version of me she gets is the authentic one. It isn’t the Eric that I post online, it isn’t the one that is writing this article, it isn’t the one that worries if his quote onstage will offend someone, be tweeted by the 500 people I’m talking to, and then retweeted in the next five minutes to become ‘viral’ and destroy my speaking career. She gets me. Just me. All of me. The ridiculously transparent, brutally authentic, goofy and sarcastic, me.
See, I believe we are living in a world that is more hyper-competitive than ever before. The lives that we live aren’t the same as the ones we post about, and as a result, aren’t an accurate reflection of who we are.
The 10 second Snapchat or Instagram story isn’t one that talks about the tough day we are having; it shows you that the 10 seconds we just recorded are likely better or more funny than the 10 seconds the audience is living when they watch it. This isn’t an authentic representation of what is going on because I think there is a hidden agenda.
I think there is a desired reaction.
Social media is a boasting tool, no longer is it one that simply updates and educates.
As are job descriptions.
Same with dating profiles.
Same with profile pages.
Same with conversations about our day.
Same with most things that are outward facing where I need validation.
I need approval. We need to hear that our audience likes our content.
We’re all performers. We’re all on our own stage. And when we’re performing, are we really authentic?
No. Not at all.
If we were authentic, we wouldn’t be presenting. We would be present. Just ‘being’.
But now, here we are. The limelight is constantly on us through social media. We are always on some kind of stage. If you really want me, it seems as though I have to preface what I’m about to say by telling you I’m being authentic.
And I’m not even going to get into the marketing of products and services. Authentic? Maybe, but you’ll absolutely be told so first.