Once I knew somebody who aimed to be a millionaire before he turned 35. He was working ridiculous, sleep-starving hours and was otherwise fully prepared to put his entire life on hold to achieve this goal. At the time it seemed a very long way off. And it wasn’t hard to see that his efforts towards it were already taking a desperate toll on his physical and emotional health, his relationships and his general happiness, but it was all part of his dream for “a better life”.
Though when asked what kind of life that better life would be, he would simply quip “one with lots of money”. And I found it a bit ironic that while he was focusing so much of his energy on that one day far off in the future when he would finally be happy, he seemed to be settling for a whole lot of unhappiness until the day arrived. I don’t know whether or not he managed to, but I always wondered whether achieving his goal would have actually made him as happy as he imagined it would.
There’s a story sold to us over and over again in modern, westernised culture.
That there are “winners” and “losers”. If you are not a “winner”, you are a “loser”. And “losers” are “nobodies”.
That success = money + fame = happiness
It’s the equation that seems to promote an overdrive of shallow, materialistic narcissism. And a media catch cry of “all that really matters is being rich and young and ‘hot’ and famous! Even if it’s just famous for being famous!!” (which seems to be more and more fashionable by the minute).
It seems to have a lot of people engaging in desperate behaviour.
And even when you’re determined not to, it can be really hard not to buy into the hype even a little bit.
In the (very) short time I’ve been writing this blog I’m pretty embarrassed by how focused I’ve sometimes been on the “number of hits” it gets (and, alternately, doesn’t get. I even caught myself doing a stupid little dance one day when the number had a sudden magic jump up after a “slump”. I don’t know which was more ridiculous – the dance itself or my reason for doing it).
I’ve had to firmly remind myself that if “getting lots of hits” ever becomes my biggest motivation for doing this, I’ll probably have to stop.
Why? Because it won’t be my soul speaking anymore.
What the hell does that mean??
Well, in a nutshell, it means that whenever I have a purely ego driven reason for creating something it ends up being steaming pile of crap.
Because my soul doesn’t care how many “hits” this blog gets. My ego does.
And my soul doesn’t care whether or not I manage to sound clever and funny and interesting and profound, like my ego often wants to. My soul only cares whether or not I have something to say and, if I do, about finding the best way I can think of to say it. Plus, all the best things I have to say come from my soul anyway. Because it is much, much smarter than my ego.
My soul doesn’t care about trying to get people’s attention or trying to impress them or how I can make money from what I’m doing. My ego drives me crazy about these things.
And my soul doesn’t care about success as it has been largely defined, so it sometimes has quite a battle with my ego which cares far too much about stuff like that and gets sucked in by all the usual myths.
On my best days my soul wins the argument.
And I remember that my soul has different goals for me anyway. To live a happy life. To live it well, with dignity and integrity, and in such a way that I’m proud of what I leave behind when my life ends.
Sometimes these are hard goals to live up to. And I stumble off the path a lot more than I’d like. But I’m trying.
It’s not that there’s anything wrong with making money. Money’s pretty useful. And (if we manage not to be hypnotised by the big spin machine into spending it on crap that adds no real value to our lives) we can put money to good use. Plus, if you can do something you’re passionate about and make enough money from it, you officially have the best job in the world.
It’s not that being famous is always a bad thing. Fame can simply mean that more people are aware of your work. And, who knows, maybe something you write or create will resonate with or inspire somebody, or help them feel better about something, or say something they need to hear at just the right moment. (Isn’t it funny how that can sometimes happen?) Plus, there’s nothing wrong with hoping that people will like or respond to your work if you care about it. That’s fairly normal.
But the question I always end up asking myself is “Why is doing this important to you?”
And if the answer had ever been about seeking fame and fortune I think I would have had to decide on another path a long time ago.
I write and create stuff because it’s part of who I am. I do it because it’s my passion. I do it because I love it and I’m not as happy when I stop doing it.
I’d love to have the validation of widespread attention and approval for my work.
I’d love to be making a better living from it.
But I will continue whether or not either of those things ever comes to pass. Simply because it’s in my soul to do so.
Besides, I have another surefire plan to get rich and famous – I’m going to be a contestant on the hit new reality TV show “Hey, Hey – it’s the Amazing Race to Find The Farmer Who Wants to Marry Lara Bingle and Build a Masterchef Kitchen in 24 hours while Dancing with the Little Dog from Britain’s Got Talent”.
Look out for it!
The little dog (and owner/trainer) who won “Britain’s Got Talent”. Living proof that every dog will have his day!