To Those In Pursuit of Success

I met an old tradesman and we talked about work and the illusion of success.

Image of a guy reading a success article for article titled “To Those In Pursuit of Success”

Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Our material, future based ideas of success, are ghosts in the machines of our minds. Here’s a better idea for which to live.

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Last Thursday I went to carry out a small job in Smithfield near where I live. When I arrived on the job at 7:30 (early start for me these days) there was an oul boy busy sanding and prepping the large red entrance door to the adjacent building.

He was a small man. I thought he must have been 70 if he was a day. He had a neatly trimmed white goatee beard and wore barely white painter’s overalls. He moved like a man who was in no hurry, who had long since left behind the felt pressure of a demanding daily grind. Come to think of it, he was no more in a hurray than any other painter I have ever seen in action. No offence lads.

It struck me that he was retired. He must have been working because he needed to, or maybe because he didn’t. Either way, he was a tradesman, and me being one too, eyeball to eyeball we exchanged the customary half-head turn accompanied by; “howya”.

The laneway was narrow with space for about ten cars and ran to a dead-end and the back entrance to Frank Ryan’s pub. I was too late to grab a parking space so I double-parked. I asked the old painter to give me a shout if anyone needed me to move. He said he would, and I went about my business.

When I got finished, the old painter was standing outside, a cup of black tea in one hand, a buttered slice of brack in the other and we got talking. He told me about his son, a spark like me, who moved to New Zealand 10 years ago. He asked if I had children and we chatted about family for a while.

We spoke about work and business. He told me about the three golf clubs of which he was a member and how it was the social connections he made there that kept him in business during lean times — over 40 years he said. I told him how I wasn’t as fortunate. We spoke about the demands of business, of dealing with employees and labour court visits, of chasing money, picking up new work, and the challenge feeding the ever hungrier beast that was the separate businesses we ran.

We agreed that running a small business was never going to make us rich — we’d long since dropped that self-deception, even though those on the outside had different ideas of what success looked like. Most people you see, those who never sample the challenges of running a small business, believe in the persistent illusion that those of us who do must be wealthy.

We mocked them thoroughly.

I enjoyed the conversation and could have stayed talking for hours. He knew what I knew you see. He walked a similar road to me and learned what I had learned. He understood the reality of business, he had lived a life and came to realise what success really meant.

I don’t think many people do.

Maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be. But then again, maybe it’s not.

“The fool who persists in his folly will become wise.” - William Blake

Many people hold to the common illusion of success. They see the glitter of bright shiny things in the hands of beautiful people and become hypnotised. They become blinded by ambition to become what they have seen, to realise the illusion of success. But it’s a ghost in the machine of their minds, a fabrication built by a collective, drunk on the idea of material wealth.

When I look around me at people in business, art, sport or whatever, both starting out and established, it seems the pursuit of success is relentless. It’s all about the win, the status, the material gain, the money in the bank.

So they pursue it, and it never fills the void.

Don’t be one of those.

Don’t be a dope that falls for the colourful talk of the marketers and salespeople who live on the thin crust of reality that we call modern life. Don’t allow yourself to be duped by their red ties and clever language designed to pander to your emotional and often irrational needs.

Instead, think. Or better still, don’t think. Allow yourself to do your work, whatever it is, for its own sake. Do your daily work for the thrill and enjoyment that it gives you and drop your ill-founded designs on success.

Extrinsic motivations will get you nowhere in the end. In fact, they will form and take you to an end, a painful one. Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, comes from an inner place and has no end.

When we are engaged in work that engages us, that brings us fulfilment and happiness in the right-now-moment of doing it, that in itself is the goal completed. And there’s no end to it. It is where work becomes art.

Whatever your work, make sure its the right work, work that sustains you. Anything else is a wasted life.

Thanks for taking the time to read my stuff. Every morning you’ll find me sharing a new thought on life, art, work, creativity, the self and the nature of reality on The Reflectionist. I write also on The Creative Mind. If you like what I’m creating, join my email list to receive the weekly Sunday Letters

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