The Measurements….of Successful Living!

Yesterday I was having a discussion with a friend. The discussion was around success and the importance of it. Who doesn’t want to be successful? Rather- who wants to be a failure? Point taken. The feeling of failure sucks!

Now that we have established the importance of being successful, the naive me wants to dig further. How do you measure success? I mean… fine… we all need to be successful, but how do I know whether I’m in the desired state??

My friend gives me a look which says- isn’t that obvious? – (a) You need to be in a leadership position and (b) You need to earn good money. Hmm. Sounds logical- can’t really challenge that. Success is a factor of Power & Money.  If I have to rate the people I know on success, looks like, the only obvious criteria will be their bank balance.

After all, history remembers only the mighty- the powerful, the rich.But can’t history be wrong? Maybe we were stupid people doing stupid things! Can’t there be another measure? But then- why change? Is it broken? Something within me says it is. Something within me says that the current measurements are causing the world more harm than good.

Let me do an exercise. As per current measurements: am I successful? While I drive a humble entry level car, some of my building co-residents have much bigger marques.  While I work for a big IT firm, I’m nowhere in the top layer of the company. My house looks modest at the best, nowhere near the 5* hotel look some of the other houses have. So am I successful?

Maybe yes. At least in relative terms. After all my building doesn’t represent the world. So yes, I’m successful 🙂 WAIT! something is missing. Is this all? What car you drive and what phone you hold defines you? What about- How good a son am I? How good a father am I? Do I respect people around me (the security guard, the janitor)? Am I an environment killer? Looks like we have to dig a little further.

Exercise no.2: Is my wife successful?  Mother of 2 kids. Dedicated home maker for 9 years (she is good at it!) before recently getting back to work. She loves her work. But does she draw a big salary? No. She represents the higher management in her company? No. So, if the success formula is only a factor of money and power, she is not doing great. Something within me tells me- this  is wrong! if you have hesitation in calling a successful home maker successful, if she is feeling the pressure of earning more and being a leader at work because her other strong areas are not earning her any points- this measurement is seriously wrong!

At this point my friend becomes a little uneasy. She asks me, “If it is okay for you (being a man) to aspire to become rich and famous, why shouldn’t she have similar aspirations?” My only point was- feminism shouldn’t be about taking some existing measurements which historically worked for men & start measuring women on the same scale (after all men never prided themselves in being good home makers). We are establishing equality with very skewed measurements! The measurements, maybe, needs to be broadened. She nods in agreement.

Exercise no.3: Few months back, my super successful neighbor called me for drinks. As I sipped an expensive brand of scotch, he told me how a school principal (the no.1 school of course) refused admission to his son and how he challenged the principal by saying that the next meeting will be in his (my neighbor’s) office and the principal will beg for the admission formalities to be completed. He went on telling  me how he made a phone call to a minister and how actually the next day the principal was at his office- begging! All this discussion took place in front of the son.

This neighbor has everything a successful person is supposed to have. Expensive cars. A house which looks like a 5* hotel. Club memberships. Owner of a big business. But something tells me that in the list of successful human beings in my building, he shouldn’t be at the top. At the bottom maybe.

Till now, I’ve primarily talked about how the measurements are measuring only few aspects and missing out on a lot of other important characteristics of a successful human being.

Another important aspect is that the current set of measurement is also driving wrong behavior. In our quest to earn more and grow bigger, we are doing a lot of undesirable things (A friend once told me- the problem of growing too big: you’ll end up becoming a monster!!). The impact on environment, the selfishness of always wanting to be the winner, the pressures, the fact that we don’t have time to enjoy the simple things in life,… so many things. I frequently see newspaper articles on how much the corporate world biggies are earning is salaries. Supposed to be inspirational. Beats me- Why is it so important? What will they do will all the money?? Too much of sugar can give a person diabetes- I strongly feel money has a similar effect!!

If you think you are successful or you think you are not: re-evaluate! Maybe your measurements are not correct!

Maybe someday we’ll have a formula & the evaluation will be a click of a button. Till then, think before you declare anyone a success…or a failure.

Cheers & success to all!

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5 Responses to The Measurements….of Successful Living!

  1. Nikesh Shah says:

    Agreed. We may not be able to change the world view of success but we can change our view of what success means to us and how we see that in others. The other attribute closely tied to success is judgment as people often judge others by how successful they are – we have to get away from doing that…and “really” doing that. Life is a passage of time and what we do with that time is up to each one of us. Successes and failures are perhaps better reflected as a set of experiences that we can all draw from.
    ps: if you failed to notice the Janjira Fort blooming in monsoon, you may want to take a moment to do so
    pps: Sutap…keep writing

  2. Awesome possum….also…do we want to be successful or do we want to be happy… we not only need to think about how we measure stuff…but also WHAT we are measuring….

  3. If you are getting these questions. Its awesome, because very few get them :). In my view (and I am still somewhere between concepts and personal experience, more towards the concepts), we are all caught up in the outward journey – family, friends, success, failures, knowledge, ignorance….what not.. Real joy and peace can only be found inward. But to start that inward journey. you need to get tired first of that outward journey. Only when you are tired can you see there is a problem in that outward journey. There is a beautiful analogy of Radha and Krishna. For attaining Krishna (the ultimate state of consciousness, you need to go via Radha. It is always said Radhe Krishna.. It is so symbolic. The opposite of Radha (in devanagari) is Dhara. Life flows outward and when it reverses and the inward journey starts, that is when you become closer to Krishna. And that inner journey does not answer any of these questions 🙂 . It eventually makes them redundant one by one.

  4. Priti says:

    Totally agree. Well written Sutap! One can’t buy everything from Power & Money….there are many other parameters to Successful Life – love, peace, happiness, satisfaction to name a few. Waiting to read more from you 🙂

  5. prashnair says:

    Very intriguing argument indeed! Whilst the most of me wants to buy-in, a minor but rather strong portion in me holds me back! Whilst I dwelve in & out of the realms of agreements & disagreements, I must confess that reading this blog was like being on a roller-coaster ride! While I share the same belief, some of the practical necessities(if I may call it so..) make me drift away! It does matter what my stand is; what does is that this piece indeed presents a compelling proposition to mull-over. Great thoughts Sutap..keep it coming!

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