Do you ever get the feeling that maybe man, in his infinite folly, has lost sight of his true purpose for living? Doesn’t it seem to you like many of us, in our quest to be the best have been consumed with some crazy, mad-dash, winner take all attitude, in which becoming king of the hill is all that really matters? Maybe it’s just me but doesn’t it seem like some people view each day as a contest, using and sometimes abusing those around them, friend and foe alike, for personal gain, then casting them aside like so much garbage, because all’s fair in the quest for success.
Like some crippling disease this competitive cancer has spread throughout society, taking its toll, filling men’s minds with illusions of grandeur, tempting and taunting us with fantastic promises, stirring up deliciously wicked sensations that saturate our minds and inciting us to sometimes assume cold, heartless identities that will sustain us in the fierce competition to be the best. Inevitably, we become compassionless cripples, unable to appreciate the subtle beauty of the life experience and the significance of that which we encounter, unable to see the value of life’s “simple things.”
Blinded by ambition we forget about the essential self and are motivated by the greed and envy that fills our hearts. No longer do we measure a man’s true worth by his moral, compassionate qualities or humanistic attributes, but by the cut of his clothes, his car, and the size of his home and bank account. Sadly we associate being truly successful with materialistic gain. The man who amasses the most is undoubtedly the best.
Funny, but we seem to have passed from the “peace, love and togetherness” era of the sixties and seventies, to the “me, myself and I” madness of the nineties and the new millennium . Success and the status it brings has become the grand illusion of the age! Truly it is a sad state of affairs when highly creative and sensitive individuals like ourselves are compelled to sacrifice our individuality , and forsake the very talent that sets us apart from one another, in a virtual “sea of sameness,” in a futile attempt at becoming part of a social phenomenon we aren’t entirely comfortable with and only half-heartedly believe in.
It’s a dog eat dog world out there folks, and competition is king. It’s everywhere. We seem to be in a constant state of competition. In sports, players compete for multi-million dollar contracts (and get them!) television networks compete for viewers, while their sponsors and advertisers compete for our dollars. Religious organizations compete for our support and our dollars, companies compete for our dollars, and we compete with our fellow workers for raises and promotions, more dollars. Everyone wants to outdo someone! All in quest of the almighty dollar! Because we all know success is really spelled $-U-C-C-E-$-$ and for every success there is a failure, and there are plenty of people who really enjoy seeing others fail.
Okay, so let’s get this straight. We’re all out there fighting to be successful and trying to make a name for ourselves in this dog eat dog world, seeking to come away with the big prize- money & status, right? But how the hell can we all be successful? We all can’t be successful can we?
“Of course we can,” I hear you say, “we can all be successful in our own way.” And I agree, we can all achieve a certain degree of success, but we can’t all be king of the hill. We all can’t be the CEO of the company or the bank president. We all can’t be the chairman of the board. Many of our successes will be minor in comparison and that’s okay.
Unfortunately there are those who won’t be satisfied with minor success, they’ll continue to kick, claw and fight their way to the top, or not. For every success story there will be those who tried and failed. What of those then who wind up on the losing end of the competition? What of those who have tried and failed time and time again? Many will continue to compete, hoping that in time they will at long last reach their goal. Others will give up, stigmatized and tired of the game, they may begin to believe that they will always be the loser and give up hope. Their self-esteem in ruins, it may take them months or even years to recover, some never will. They’ll resign themselves to settle for less and be haunted by thoughts of what might have been. You know, all of those “woulda, coulda, and shoulda’s,” all those “I almost, I nearly, I was so close, it was right there,” memories. Sadly, this is the dark side of this “go for it” attitude of ours. Those who went for it and failed. The might- have- beens.
And what can be done to change this winner take all attitude? How do we derail this runaway train I call “the Success Express? ” I believe the time has come to bring everything to a screeching halt, pull out of the fast lane and pull over and park by the side of Life’s Highway for a long moment and re-orient ourselves as to our true purpose for living. We must take hold of our lives, recapture our individuality, and realize the deeper significance of our daily experiences. We must be motivated by love rather than, greed, pride or envy. We need to re-establish our priorities, soften our hearts and push forward with a new zest for life. Most importantly we need to redefine the meaning of success and competition for future generations?
In 1970 Crosby, Stills & Nash released a song entitled “Teach Your Children.” That is perhaps the best advice of all.
“You, who are on the road, must have a code that you can live by. And so, become yourself, because the past is just a goodbye. Teach your children well.”
That’s right, teach them well, set an example for them. Teach them to feel good about themselves. Instruct them on how to properly respond to the competitive nature of the beast. Teach them that even though their futures are sure to be competitive, life is not a series of daily contests. Help them to see the value of goal setting, it’s good to have goals and direction, but also teach them that it is unhealthy to get hung up on those goals. Teach them that there is value in losing and that you don’t always have to come in first.
Perhaps in time they’ll realize that you don’t have to be the CEO or the president and that you can take pride in having a career that maybe doesn’t pay the mega-bucks, but makes you happy, that driving a Ford or a Honda instead of a Mercedes or Porsche is okay, it’s just a car. It can still be your favorite color and have your favorite rim and tires on it. It can still be special. And houses on hillsides are over-rated, you can live anywhere. It’s not the house you live in, it’s the home you create in that house that’s important. Perhaps in time they’ll come to understand that it’s okay to take time along the journey to stop and smell the roses.