If I had a dime – no, a nickel – for every time someone claimed they would not change who they are in the face of success, I’d be a wealthy woman. If I had a mere penny for every time the individual who made this claim then changed into someone who the first version of themselves would loathe to be around at a cocktail party, I’d be able to purchase Sir Richard Branson’s Empire. “Virgin Egglantic” – I think it has a ring, don’t you?
Success: It is the earmark toward which Western Culture not only aspires, but is driven to worship. We are programmed at an early age with the blanket concept of “being successful”. We are trained that the definition of success is money, stature, power, and status. We are taught that successful people are a special breed, the superstars, and we are drilled with the social mores of a physical world to define ourselves by how “successful” we are.
There’s just one problem with this flow chart: If we are to define ourselves by our outward and physical success, which can only be the secondary effect of our efforts in the world – then who are we in the world until we are “successful”?
Are we some poor nameless blob living an irrelevant life, wandering up and down the street grasping at an identity we may or may not ever achieve like that guy at a corporate convention who gropes a table while drunk, blindly searching for his nametag? Good lord. No wonder the depression rate in the United States of America has skyrocketed though the recession.
If we do not exist without a trail of bells and whistles to define us, then there are an awful lot of people in this nation who have simply “ceased to be” as homes and cars are repossessed. Indeed, if one has been watching the news since 2008, we’ve seen the dissipation of the American identity in real time. The whole system implies that we are an invisible non-person until we achieve something that others are able to quantify – or, “success”. Yet how is this invisible non-person to achieve the success of a hyper-visible superstar? How can an invisible non-person even make it on the radar to land the opportunities that would provide money, stature, power, and status?
Welcome to the spiritual double edge sword of Design vs. Desire, and the social cycle of economic class control. As long as people continue to collectively buy into the idea that “success” is only traceable through physical means – cars, houses, promotions, status, a hot spouse, getting on the A-List, getting the better job, boats, clothes, shoes, fancy vacations – then people will continue to believe that who they are is what they are. However, nothing could be further from the truth, especially if the individual’s claims of identity are centered on external factors. At the same time, nothing could be more centered in truth if the person is in alignment with their path. Thus, the double-edged sword of “Who we are is what we are” is born.
More often than not, a person will stand in denial and claim they are “on their spiritual path” simply to morally justify the bells and whistles and toys they’re taking home at the expense of their own purpose. Welcome to one of Darkness’ most effective poisons against humanity: Ego.
With such a razor-thin line we must walk between Process and Purpose, it’s no wonder that people fall off the balance beam. If what we are betrays who we are, then we’ve strayed off the Path of Purpose and into the Arena of Ego. When we deviate from being motivated by our inner joy to being motivated by our outer desires – we’ve just derailed the train.
This “twist around” in one’s path usually starts out with good intentions, as do most calamities in life. To understand how we go from on-point to off-kilter, one must put themselves in the shoes of mankind’s most persistent spiritual predator – Darkness. If one thinks like Darkness, then the process of throwing someone off-kilter by starting with their best intentions makes sense. Since Darkness cannot affect change in our life directly – it doesn’t have that kind of power over us as we are Creatures of Light — it must work off of what drives us. Once we are full-tilt on our path, Darkness uses our own inertia to make its move. Since it cannot influence us directly, it must slowly dissuade us from our highest purpose by distracting us onto another path while still maintaining full velocity. This takes a great deal of patience on the part of Darkness. If it pushes too hard, we are suddenly made aware of our bad choices by too many people alerting us to the change in our behavior, and we shape up. Universally, Darkness is allowed to look right through us, like an X-Ray, to view our file of deepest insecurities. Once this fear-file is pulled, Darkness whispers suggestions to us that will result in miniscule course correction, that at the time, seem like fantastic ideas. Many miles down the path, we’re still barreling forward all guns a-blazing yet suddenly we notice the landscape doesn’t look right. We were heading for the ocean, and somehow we’ve ended up on the desert – out of gas. Darkness then hops off our train, has a good laugh, and leaves us to bake in the sun. Our “success” then amounts to a home for fire ants and scorpions.
In real life, the process of this life-path hijacking usually looks something like this: An individual has a lifetime desire, or a dream, and so they throw everything they have into pursuing this burning sensation in their spirit. At first, their ambition is a pure beacon burning in the darkness, blazing a fearless path through never-before charted territories for themselves and for others. This phase of life is filled with pure excitement and adrenaline. Every cell in our being is resonating with possibility. We are not focused on the obstacles, but the possibilities. We work tirelessly day and night to build this beautiful life in which we envision ourselves – earning a college degree, starting our own business, our own band, launching our own career and our own family. Yet along the way somewhere, we forget that the structure we are building is simply that – a mere foundation on which to place our dreams. We begin to assign so much of our self worth to the Process of what we are doing, rather than the Purpose of what we are doing, that we mistake the foundation of our own design – FOR our Design. We forget that we embarked upon the great journey to fulfill the desires of our soul. Instead, our drive to birth something beautiful into the world is replaced with the desperation to take more and more from the world. Once “success” is achieved and the bounty of the life begins to flood in – money, power, stature – the person who once was the “designer” is slowly usurped by the design. We then become a pandering slave to the illusion of our own empire, driven no longer by the love for what we are doing, but instead by the fear of losing everything we have.
Transforming Love to Fear – the calling card, and the specialty, of Darkness. Cut to the rusting derailed train in the Mojave and cue the buzzards.
To understand the “who we are is what we are” concept, we must first be acquainted with what we are not. We are not the external world. We are not material possessions. We are not the choice of another individual to marry us. We are not the money in our bank account. We are not the cars in our driveway. We are not the title on our door. We are not the promotion we are longing for. We are not the record deal. We are not the clothes and the jewelry we’ve accrued. We are not how many albums we sell or how many films in which we are cast. All of those items are mere reflections of our efforts, not our identity. Those efforts may or may not fall within our purpose, yet our identity always falls within our purpose. Our Design is indelibly stamped within our spirit. Our Design is not a matter of fate, but it is a skill set with which we are blessed that when best set to purpose will net life-altering results not only for ourselves but for others around us.
It is easy to see what we are “not”. It is less simple to define what we are, as we are the internal world, or the world of the spirit. We are spiritual creatures navigating a three-dimensional environment while seated in a “space suit” made of flesh. We are the bringers of miracles through our empathy. We are joy. We are hope. We are possibility. We are compassion. We are sorrow. We are strength. We are made to grow. We are subject to fear. We are love.
We bring miracles through empathy by offering a kindness to someone at a crucial time in their life, thus saving it. That is how we affect the external world.
We exude joy into our environment thus giving others permission and safety to do so themselves. That is how we affect the external world.
We choose hope which births hope in others. This is how we affect the external world.
We pour enthusiasm into the stagnant pond, oxygenating the water with fresh possibilities. This is how we affect the external world.
We restore dignity to the human spirit by soothing pain with compassion. This is how we affect the external world.
We are hobbled by our own sorrow, giving others the beautiful opportunity to shine brightly as they reach to help us. This is how we affect the external world.
We remain strong while the storm beats upon our shutters, sheltering those inside who we would die to protect. This is how we affect the external world.
We stumble until we fill the shoes we’ve chosen to wear, only to give the shoes away to someone who needs them once we’ve grown into a new pair. This is how we affect the external world.
We recoil in fear so that others may teach us faith. This is how we affect the external world.
We love, and we are loved. This is how we affect the external world.
…Notice how vital to the world are all the aforementioned attributes. Now, notice how the external world does not acknowledge any of the aforementioned attributes as ear-markers for “success”. We are sent a message from an early age that the most vital portions in life mean nothing in terms of “who we are”. Yet outside of the illusion of “success”– who we are is what we are. The person who exhibits loyalty to another when all others betray them for appearances is then known as a loyal person. This loyal person is hired on and maintained as an employee for a long time, endowed with raises and company trusts. This person is successful because they identify as loyal, not as an Executive Vice President.
If we are exhibiting our greatest attributes into the world, WHO we are will then become WHAT we are. Landing the job that gives us joy will follow our attempts to first bring joy into the world. To be successful, we must bring our gifts into the world for no other reason than… we can’t stop the avalanche of being who we are. Any endeavor that we embark upon which is designed solely to “get us to the next level” without being accompanied by a genuine joy to be on that particular path — will not net the desired result. Yes, certainly, it will net a result. But attempting to manipulate fate by circumventing our Design in order to more quickly achieve our Desires will inevitably produce a frustrating lack of all we wish to achieve.
We can’t fool Mother Nature.
We can, however, fool ourselves, and we do so frequently. We tell ourselves that we will never get what we want because it’s a pipe dream. We tell ourselves that the desires of our heart are ridiculous, so we’d better just suck it up and “get realistic” (this is code for “You better be the one to disappoint yourself by letting go of your dreams, so you can be in control of the pain and not be blindsided by someone else turning you down.”) As adults, we professionally pander after the approval of others worse than teenage girls at cheerleader try-outs, all in desperation we’ll be “passed over” when it comes time to receive accolades and advancement. We do everything for the wrong reasons – to get ahead, to get noticed, to get more money, to get, get, get. We take out of the world without putting into it because we buy into the myth that we must “take” what is ours, instead of recognizing that what is not ours was never meant to be ours, and what is ours – no one can ever take away.
We are designed to operate on a spiritual system while navigating through a physical environment. Yet that concept seems to fly clear over the heads of many, so instead, we attempt to operate on a physical system while navigating through a physical environment, and we end up feeling empty, abandoned, and alone. The truth is that we were the ones extricating ourselves from our Parent Creator’s Design while attempting to become Marketing Director of the Year. No one forced us to do that – but us.
This isn’t to suggest that we all shouldn’t have professional goals. All goals,especially professional, are fantastic. We simply must make sure that we are going after our goals for the right reasons – achieving the goals because they are WHO we are, not because they will miraculously “make us” into what we wish we were. It doesn’t happen like that. If we attempt to achieve a goal not because we have a burning drive to achieve it, but because we feel by achieving the goal we will be elevated in some way – when the goal is nothing more than a means to an end — then we are not reaching from our own gifts. We are reaching for gifts we feel we lack. When we reach from a place of lacking, we receive lacking in return. We cannot achieve what we do not possess. However, if we have a burning desire in our spirit to achieve something and we must go through several steps to achieve that desire, that’s a different story. If we feel there is achievement in each segment of our journey, then we experience success with each step along the way.
Ego would attempt to convince us that the “steps” we would take in growth are unnecessary. Ego drives a person to covetousness once in the realm of “success”. Ego will walk us right past the place of gratitude for all we’ve achieved and right into an obsessive need for more, more, more. The latter is based upon a fear that the person will never have more than what they’ve achieved in that moment. It’s an illusion created by the fear that our “new identity” will not be able to be maintained unless it continues to be “more fabulous” or “more successful”. We step outside of bringing our Design into the world and begin competing with that same world for more than our share because we fear the loss of our “share”. In other words, we don’t have faith that WE were ever enough to achieve the success in the first place. Even in the face of our triumphs, we are in a perpetual state of fear – afraid we’ll lose everything.
Working in entertainment, I witness all sorts of interesting and terrifying transformations in people when they are suddenly faced with “success”. Let me tell you – not everyone can handle the success brought on by fame. I’m not talking stage fright and I’m not talking “fear of success” (which is actually a fear of maintaining the responsibilities that success brings, and that’s a whole ‘nuther blog.) I’m not talking about the folks who numb themselves with drugs and alcohol like poor Lindsay Lohan, who is inundated with more sadness than any one person should be, at any given moment. I’m talking about the dichotomy of the people who swear up and down that they’d never “change” if they ever “hit it big”. Watch out for false humility. It masks a person who is attempting to convince themselves, because they know good and well that if “success” ever came a-knockin’, they would become its harlot. I’ve watched people change from a truly altruistic person, whose path was to assist themselves and others, to someone who would throw anyone under the bus to elevate themselves in the eyes of others once they were in the position to do so. I’ve watched “success” bring out the ugliest, most selfish, most entitled parts of people once they finally were in a position to be revered. Instead of becoming the inspiration — they became the tyrant. They justify these actions as finally being able to claim what is “theirs”.
Sadly, if the individual was humble and giving on the way up, only to turn around and become an egomaniac “taker” once arrived – the Universe will cease the opportunities that brought the person to that point. Why? Because the moment we claim our identity as “what” we are, we put the Universe’s best plans for us on hold, as we are not “who” we are, to receive them.
I’ve known many successful people who were lovely and giving before their success, as well as afterwards. And guess what? Surprise — they’re still successful. “Success” is achieved when our internal needs, desires and dreams are brought into the world. If we are taking measures to meet our spiritual and emotional needs, it is likely that these measures will have a positive impact on others. Think of the old “Field of Dreams” analogy: If you build it, they will come. It’s very, very true. We must “do” in this world what we feel we are here to do, and put aside our ideas of material “success” in relation to whether we decide to do it or not. We must begin to see our true successes, the successes that are meant for us, for exactly who we are – and exactly what they are. If we are incapable or unwilling to acknowledge our successes as they are presented to us, we limit the Universe’s ability to bring us our true bounty. If we only quantify success as three homes, six cars and a six figure job, then the loving marriage of 20 years, the two well-adjusted children, the full savings account and the mortgage that is not in the rears is ignored. All four of those achievements are great successes in today’s socio-spiritual climate. Yet we tend to ignore our true successes for shallow Ego-reflecting pursuits that we feel shine brighter, so we will believe we are brighter.
Ego fills in where self-confidence is missing. A confident person does not need the lauding of others, though sure – positive props are always appreciated. Yet positive comments are different from hero worship, and many believe that without the worship, there is no success. Our version of “success” in Western Culture is a Frankenstein mess made up from the spare parts of avarous, greed, and entitlement. Success was not designed to be so ugly.
As adults, it’s time we cease in acting like children who have been raised in a war-torn world, scavenging under rocks for the least little crumb in terms of “success”. We are neither desperate nor wanting, and we’d realize this if we’d simply come out of the illusion of “success”, created by the worship of the Almighty Dollar. We have so much success awaiting us, on any given day, and all we need to do to achieve our design is to BE our design, everyday. A common battle cry I hear in the Spiritual Field is that of people who claim they are “not allowed” to be themselves in the world. No one can ever force us not to be ourselves. We choose not to be ourselves for a variety of reasons. Yet to assign away the power of being who we are and then claim victim status is not accurate. Only we choose who we are in this world. This may be a difficult concept for some to accept, but it is indeed the truth. The sooner we realize that it is we who keep us captive, not “the man at work” or “society”, the sooner we are able to liberate our spirits and bring our joy into the world.
We can have a decent job, and we can pursue our dreams. They do not always have to be one and the same. Success in life cannot be judged by financial gain, though financial gain is often a bi-product of success. The worship of the Dollar has resulted in the lumping of “success”, “status”, and “financial accrual” into the same pile. Yet one does not actually have to do with the other. Mother Teresa is an excellent example of this. I’ve known many people who have a decent paying job that does not define them, yet then have a side project that does – baking, music, crocheting, fishing. As bakers, musicians, needle workers and fishermen, these people are wildly successful, baking the best Red Velvet Cake ever, creating the best independent CD in my player, crocheting blankets children use every night, and putting trout in the freezer to enjoy all year. Their gifts are successful in edifying themselves and others all year round. If they were forced to quantify their gifts — or success – solely on a financial basis, they would be considered “professional failures”.
Our system of assigning value to what is important – is broken.
Our desires originate from our heart, yet if we become our desires and leave behind our heart, the foundations of our very endeavors are built upon the sands of illusion. We have the opportunity to marry our Design with our Desires if we keep our intention pure in our pursuit of both, and we stay out of fear in bringing them both into the world. If we are capable of doing this, we can honestly say that who we are is what we are. If we step past the purity of honoring our Design and instead step into Ego, which needs to be fed a whole separate diet that has nothing to do with our life path, our opportunities will fade as we teach ourselves who we really are by learning the hard way – who we are not.
If you build it, they will come. Unless, of course, you only built it to look impressive on your way up, in which case – a whole lot of money was just spent on a staircase to nowhere.