If you ask a child what being successful means to them, they typically describe things that involve money, power or fame. It’s what society seems to strive towards, that big pot of money and celebrity at the end of the rainbow.
You only need to watch reality TV, or read celebrity gossip magazines to see why we associate success with money and popularity, even a simple online dictionary definition uses the words wealth, respect and fame.
I grew up in a household with two really hardworking working class parents that had no formal qualifications or much money. As a child I dreamed about being rich and famous, about being successful. My dream meant an escape from the life that I had which had moments of disappointment from the expensive toys that I asked for, but that my family couldn’t afford. Money to my 7 year old self meant that I could fill my life with material things that I didn’t have, and I believed that would make me happy. So, I grew up wanting to be successful where that word meant I wanted to be financially rich.
As I matured I wondered more about my mortality, if I were lying on my death bed right now would I think my short time on earth had been successful?
I realised that my death-bed self probably wouldn’t be thinking about how much money, power or fame I had.
Thinking about my life, I used to be the type of person who looked around at things that weren’t working in the world and would complain about them. Things like inequality of technology education in lower socioeconomic region schools, and the lack of gender diversity in the tech sector. I’d complain to my peers about how terrible the system was, but eventually got tired of my own voice and realised that whining about these problems didn’t make them change, they just keep me frustrated and keep the issues stagnant.
Deciding to stop sitting by watching the world become what it was becoming, and turn my whining into change was an easy choice. I knew I wasn’t going to solve the worlds issues in one day, but I could perhaps make a tiny difference, and encourage others to make a tiny difference, and eventually lots of tiny differences might just add up to one massive difference.
So I did, I started small, just mentoring individual children in schools, which led on to giving inspiring talks to bigger schools, which led to setting up a charity empowering children in schools. Then I came across this quote by David Brooks which supported my beliefs that lots of people making a tiny positive difference to the world could be one of the biggest things that change our planet.
In his quote I found my new personal definition of what success meant to me and what I would be content with on my death bed.
I don’t care what the dictionary says, I think the word success can mean very different things to us all in life, but for me, I’m happy with this new definition, and with my little difference based charity which makes me feel all kinds of successful.
I have the power to make it so and you do to!