A Three Part Series Dedicated to Exploring the New Meaning of Success
Part III: What Might a New Success Look Like?
If you read Parts I and II of this series, you may still be thinking to yourself that local success is qualitatively different from global success. The satirical newspaper The Onion hears you, and in the 1990s sold a very popular t-shirt that said “I’m in a promising local band.” It was funny, and vicious at the same time, as it embodies the traditional version of success discussed in Part I. The shirt was meant to imply that musicians who are successful locally aren’t able to compete with more globally successful musicians. Yet you could read it a different way if you remove the sarcasm and instead notice that the musicians that are in some ways the butt of this joke have a belief that they are successful. My argument is that this is exactly what we should encourage; this shirt could be construed as traditional success asserting its dominance over a more local version.
In a community such as ours (and, I’m sure, in many communities across the country), which lacks some of the financial resources of our larger peers (with whom we must now compete in the global economy) we need multiple models of success, because many, many people in our community are very successful, even if they don’t fit into the traditional definition of success. There are only so many CEO and celebrity “positions” to go around. It is drastically hard to become a U.S. Senator, or the next George Clooney. But thinking that those are the only models of success deprives one’s local community of all of the benefits of the many successful people living within that community.
As I noted in Part II of this series, anyone who has something to give is a successful person, but taking the step to actually share it is the mark of embracing that success. In the Monadnock Region, as in so many other communities across the globe, we have ample opportunities for successful people to truly make a difference. What might this look like? A few examples:
It would be a huge step forward if there were an active mentoring community, where people at all stages of their career could link up with those senior to them to learn and grow within that path. We could use this collective wisdom to excite young people about starting a career here, and to excite mid-career people about staying to build their career here.
Next, wouldn’t it be nice if there were waiting lists for Boards of Directors for local non-profits? That would mean that expertise was beating down the door of these worthy organizations to further their missions.
Third, we could see broader participation in collective action to solve big problems. We have some incredible initiatives underway, but these need a wider base of contributors (not just financial contributions) to help the initiatives to take root and build systemic, sustainable change.
Fourth – and this is an area dear to me – a community of successful people, defined across a spectrum, is a community where people want to re-locate and build businesses, and where businesses that are already here want to stay and grow. A community of people who have embraced their own success could act as “civic salespeople” for the outstanding community here in the Monadnock Region of which we are privileged to be a part.
At this point, I want to emphasize that the point of re-defining success is not to make it easier, in the vein of “everyone gets an ‘A’.” I don’t want to water it down, but I do want to move it out of an artificial rarefied air where it is reserved for a few. Instead, it should be embraced by those who have taken time to refine their craft, and who have made a meaningful life for themselves. This is success, and many of us who see ourselves as successful don’t get out of bed in the morning to become famous or make millions of dollars. We do what we do because we enjoy getting better, and we enjoy that this dedication to craft enables us to be better at giving back. If 2014 is the year when all of us refuse to see success as unusual, but instead as achievable and indeed inevitable, we can ensure that success will not suck, and that our community will only be better for it.
Now it is your turn. It would be great to see some comments on these posts, and to start a broader conversation about the meaning of success. I look forward to hearing from you!