Back in the beginning of the year, a friend of mine visited me to show me his brand new car. A few months prior to that, another friend of mine had invited me to go see his new apartment in town, and another one asked me to go celebrate his new job appointment with him. While I had been happy to see my friends succeed in the different ways they were succeeding, something in me couldn’t help but feel a little left behind by the success that they had themselves found.
The thing is, while we were all in high school, my friends and I had made grand plans about where we would like to see ourselves in the future. We had made elaborate plans about the goals we would like to achieve, by what time we would like to achieve them, and how we would all be these great people in the future. Like most young people, we saw the future as something that belonged to us, and we worked the hardest we could to ensure that we reached the goals we had all set for ourselves.
Like most young people, when we set our goals back in high school, we had made material success the yardstick with which we were going to measure our success. We believed, like most people do, that true success is measured by how many things you can buy, how expensive those things are, and how often you can afford to buy them. Success, for us, meant attaining material goods, and the world has kept this way of viewing success all the way up to our current age.
I don’t exactly know when the world began measuring success this way, but I do know that most people in the world believe, like me and my friends did and still do, that to be seen as successful, one has to have a lot of material things, and I honestly think we need to change this.
One thing I can think of that might have given birth to our ideas of success as having material things is the birth of Capitalism. Before Capitalism, a majority of the world used to live under a system called Feudalism. Under Feudalism, the land, which was owned by the king, used to be the primary source of income for everyone, and a person’s success used to be measured by their ability to work that land and produce for themselves and the people around them. And while some people might argue that Feudalism was a system only used in the West, I have come to realise that, even if we didn’t call it Feudalism, most African people used to use it too.
The birth of Capitalism then took away this way of viewing success, and replaced it with material gain. Under Capitalism, a person’s success was now measured by how much they could accumulate, not how hard they worked. Ever since then, we have viewed success as the ability to accumulate material things, and my friends and I fell victim to this same practice when we were in high school.
While there are certain advantages to accumulating material goods – like being able to afford quality education, healthcare and other essentials – there are also a lot of disadvantages to viewing success this way. For instance, if you view success as the attainment of material goods, then you run the risk of spending a lot of your time chasing material things instead of enjoying what you are doing. Life, believe it or not, should be about more than just gaining things, because if you become obsessed with gaining things, you run the risk of missing out on the things that make life enjoyable.
This is not to say material things don’t make life enjoyable, though, because to a certain extent, some of them actually do. But, there is no amount of material gain in the world that can live up to spending time with your loved ones, sharing laughs with them and enjoying their company. There is no amount of money, and no number of fancy cars or cellphones, that can compare to spending time with people who love you and you love back.
So, when my friends invited me to celebrate their success with them, I might have felt left behind because I, personally, was not as blessed with material success as them. But, after months of thinking about it, I realised that, while I might not have the car, the apartment, or the high paying job, I still have friends who value me enough to want me around when they celebrate their own successes, and a family that loves and appreciates me for who I am. I have not been blessed with material goods, but I have been blessed with the love of friends and family, and I think that makes me successful in my own way.
Let’s change how we view success, because some of us are more successful than we think we are!
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Tell us: What makes you successful? Give a reason for your answer.