This cracked article
on the dangers of self pity is pretty good (at least compared to some of their other self help articles), but it's the comments that sum up how I feel about success and the american dream.
Our collective definition of what we consider success is so warped now that we can't even accommodate for those who do not fit the mould. We define success based on money, lifestyle and this insane trend of who they feature in their social circles. We ignore character, dignity and how some people just do not fit into our societal pegs.
Consider a hypothetical man who is happy being a janitor. He provides for his family. He provides a service for the public. Perhaps he enjoys cleaning things, or perhaps he took this job because he needed to eat.
We have no real respect for this man and others like him, simply because his job isn't challenging according to our standards. We say he shows no initiative. We believe he must have no motivation to excel, and probably is suffering his just desserts for not pursuing an education that would broaden his horizons.
Collectively, we do not consider a janitor a successful man regardless of how he performs his duties, or how his family eats because he cleans buildings for a living. His worth is defined by his station.
And yet, if this janitor does his job with pride, provides for his family and makes as good a life as he can with the hand he was dealt, how is this man not a success?
We live in a world where teachers, those most directly responsible for educating future generations, get paid sh*t. The same world pays bankers incredible, top end salaries and their only job is to turn money into more money for those they work for.
The moment we decided to simply equate a person's worth with the income they command - to define success by paycheck and lifestyle instead of character and dignity - we forgot that success comes in many forms and sometimes, it comes in those places nobody thinks to look.
No, apparently the mere fact of being a janitor disqualifies him from being a success in our eyes. Even though he does his job with pride. Even though he provides for his family, owes no man anything, raises children who are good souls, and does a job most of us spurn with upturned noses with quiet dignity.
This man is not a success?
Aspiration is a good thing, but it is not everything. Right now, the world needs balance and perspective more than it needs aspiration. And we're not going to get it.
"And you've heard the excuses. "I want to write a book, but I'm no good at writing." "I want to get a date, but I'm too unattractive." "I want to avenge my brother's death at the state dance fighting regionals, but I'd never be able to pull off the forbidden move.""
One of the most difficult things in life (but very liberating if you pull it off) is realizing and accepting that your true desires are counter to what you've convinced yourself of. If you don't love some part of the process of achieving a goal, it's probably not meant to be.
For example, About a decade ago I made the mammoth mistake of obtaining a BA in English. Because of this poor life decision and the fact that I always had a cool idea or two for science fiction stories rattling around in my brain, I felt like I had some obligation to write novels. The trouble was, every time I tried to write a fiction story, the results were nothing short of a literary abortion.
For the longest time I beat myself up for being a terrible fiction writer who couldn't stay focused long enough to write one chapter let alone an entire novel of hackey dialogue and one dimensional characters. Could I have put in the thousands of hours needed to be a decent fiction writer? Yes, but those would have been the most tedious, miserable, hours of my life. When I was honest with myself, I realized that there was just no part of the fiction writing process I enjoyed. No matter how "good" at it I became, I would still find the process tedious.
The point is the bulk of time spent achieving any goal will be the in process. If you don't enjoy the journey, why are you doing a thing in the first place? This is counter to the underlying philosophy of American society (which is all about hate f*****g round pegs into square holes) but it's totally OK to let something go if you don't like it, as long as you never stop searching for your thing or things.
This is the kind of stuff no one ever mentions in these success sermons. They don't take into account that different people find different things rewarding. If you end up hating every step of the process to achieve a goal, then there should be no shame in saying "fuck it" and aim for something more realistic.