Friday, 21 October 2011

The Measuring of Success

The Sunday Times Rich List 2010

Office chitchat recently steered to one of its favorite topics, the financial success of select society members. “Look at how much money this guy is making” and all that jazz. I did my regular party pooper manoeuvre, broke the festive spirit, and pointed out relatively quickly that by my reckoning financial achievements are far from being a true measure of a person’s success.
What is the true measure of success, then?
The answer is complicated and I do not pretend to have it. I consider the answer derived out of the answer to questions regarding the meaning of life: the meaning of life is the meaning we give it. Extrapolating from that, my personal answer to the success measure is that a person is successful if the person achieves an acceptable portion of the targets they pose themselves.
Take me, for example. I dedicate the majority of my wakeful time to work, but it’s been a long while since I’ve been passionate about my work. I feel a bit sad admitting it, but blogging made me realize my true passion is writing; in particular I am passionate about writing about the subjects dearest to me, from books and films through social matters such as civil liberties in the virtual world. Note I do not pretend to be a particularly good writer; I just love doing it. It feels like some sort of a calling.
Writing my blogs, I am already satisfying my passion to writing. Some of my posts even earn hits by the thousands, which leads me to suspect I can try to achieve more in the writing arena. The fact these posts tend to deal with matters of technology, and the fact I am an undeniable gadget freak, renders the picture clear: my true personal success measure, at least when it comes to my professional life, would be to write periodically to a respectable IT/gadget forum. I don’t care about seeing much money out of this escapade; it is all from the heart.

[Warning: the following passage contains severe ass kissing]
At this point I will turn your attention to a person I know very little about, but a person with whom I suspect I share similar passions and aspirations.
There are plenty of Australian IT forums (for lack of a better word), and I follow most of them on Twitter. However, there is only one that I follow in my RSS feed, where I make sure not to miss a single feed. That select publication is Delimiter. The reason is simple: Delimiter has a no bullshit attitude. It won’t rush to publish the latest press release from a brand starving for attention, and when it does publish something it doesn’t only recite what the corporate PR departments pushed forward but adds its editorial analysis. The fact is, I usually – if not always – agree with that analysis. The fact is also that I tend to arrive to the same conclusion as the editor even before I read his words, which – given the above stated passions of mine – did lead me to think that perhaps my future lies in working for a publication of a similar nature to Delimiter.
Delimiter is published by Renai LeMay, who – as far as I can tell but I could be totally wrong – established the website and is at the very center of its running. That makes LeMay a person I am quite jealous of: here is someone with similar professional aspirations to mine that was actually able to go out and fulfil his dream, big time. I fully admit: I lack the skills and the balls it takes to make one an entrepreneur ala LeMay.
I do, however, consider myself quite good at doing the hard work once that initial spark has been lit. With that in mind I contacted LeMay via Twitter; this led to that, and LeMay said he will be following my blog. As in, this blog.
Now I don’t know if he does, I don’t know if he’ll read this post, and I don’t know whether he will think of this post as anything but a cheap attempt by me to attract more of his attention. It doesn’t matter [who am I kidding? It matters a lot]; the point of this exercise was to point at a person I consider successful. Not because he made a lot of money (I sort of doubt he’s drowning in it), but rather because he and I share the same dream but he was able to take it much further than I have and much further than I ever will.

This brings me back to my definition of a successful person I opened this post with. I wrote that a person is “successful if the person achieves an acceptable portion of the targets they pose themselves”, and I would like to emphasize the use of the word acceptable.
As stated, for very down to earth reasons I will never be able to go as far as LeMay in my professional dream fulfilment. It’s not only that I’m no entrepreneur, it also has a lot to do with me lacking the networking one acquires through living their entire lives in Australia and attending local high schools and universities. For that reason, what passes as acceptable for me is probably quite unacceptable for others.
Further reduction of my acceptable standards comes by virtue of the fact I am now a parent. My priorities are different: I don’t care for being a jet setting man of importance anymore; I want to spend time with my family. If you were to ask me what my chief priority in life is, the answer I would give you is the ability to spend more time with my family. That would be enough success by me!
I don’t want to see my son only when we get him ready for kinder, pick him up from kinder, have dinner together and put him to bed. I want to experience life with him, otherwise what was the point of bringing a child to the world with all the effort that endeavor takes in the first place?
The way I see it, the dream of having more quality time to spend with the family is entirely achievable. It’s achievable in two ways: I can work part time or work for less hours each day, and I can reduce the time it takes me to get to and back from work. Achievable on paper as my dream may be, it hits some very solid walls: employers are quite reluctant to give up on their resources (i.e., employees), especially in the IT industry that is so famous for longer than average working hours. Second, a reduction of my commuting time to and from work looks highly unlikely given the abysmal treatment Melbourne’s public transport system has been receiving at the hands of consecutive state governments. There is the idea of working from home, but it does not seem as if my employer is in love with the idea of making that a normal practice.
Still, this is my personal path to success, and it will be even more so when my son goes to school. I will not go down without a fight!

Image by HowardLake, Creative Commons license

1 comment:

Renai LeMay said...

"I don’t know if he’ll read this post"

I did. And I was very affected by it. It's this kind of praise which makes all the long hours of writing worthwhile -- to know that you have affected someone's life in a positive way is something amazing.

As for following your dreams and family, I agree with everything you wrote! Following your dreams is the most important thing -- but of course, having a family is part of that dream :) However, I would also add this quote from Ursula K. Le Guin, when asked about her writing career.

"Q: How do you feel about your life now? What would you change or wish had been different?

A: I love living almost as well as I love writing.
It was tough trying to keep writing while bringing up three kids, but my husband was totally in it with me, and so it worked out fine. Le Guins' Rule: One person cannot do two fulltime jobs, but two persons can do three fulltime jobs — if they honestly share the work.
The idea that you need an ivory tower to write in, that if you have babies you can't have books, that artists are somehow exempt from the dirty work of life — rubbish."

If someone like Le Guin (author of the Earthsea series and many other books) can have a family and become a famous writer at the same time, then there is hope for us all :)