Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Alain de Botton on success

37signals linked to this nice TED talk by Alain de Botton on success:

I loved de Botton's book The Architecture of Happiness so had to watch this. He has some interesting thoughts on success and career and the juxtaposition of work/life.

Those who know me know I've never been keen on a career. I was reflecting the other day on how this time last year one of my primary concerns with my life was whether I wanted to take up a string instrument or capoeira. That was the tough choice with which I was coping. I felt pretty good about the majority of my life.

Those same people also know that more than anything, I have tried to be a good father. If I were to say I have been successful in any arena, it is that. My oldest, now solidly in his teens, only ever proclaims hate for me while laughing. I hope to avoid the teen-angst hate and expect I will. I feel like I have achieved the "tough but gentle" line that de Botton talks about at the end of his talk. So I'm happy with my role as Dad.

Beyond being a good Dad, I'm not sure what else would make me feel successful. There is a job I want to have ultimately...I think. And it is somewhere where I want to live the rest of my days...I think. And I also think there are a few things that I want to do with my life before I'm dead and gone. By and large, though, I'm pretty happy with my life. I don't think many people would be envious of it but that's mostly because I rarely want what the majority of people do.

On the flipside, I don't feel envy towards many people. My friend, Jason, mostly. He somehow manages to completely utilize his time for himself and the things he enjoys doing. He does this without being selfish, either, which I find impressive. If I were single and without kids, I'd probably aspire to be like him.

My friend, Danielle, too. I get envious of her. Her personal seesaw is heavily weighted on the life side rather than the work (as is Jason's). She has a wonderful spouse whom she loves very much (and vice versa), a nice house in Philly (what makes it nice to me is their sense of style more so than the building itself), and a great sense of adventure.

I cite them because it helps me to see what I want to be successful. A loving partner. Time/financial freedom/whatever else might help me feel more comfortable about pursuing my interests.

Which returns me to de Botton's talk. I can't be successful in everything. Being a good father requires sacrificing time and money (and my computer). When the boowahs are all growns up, then maybe I can pursue my interests some more. I don't know how successful I'll be at capoeira with my body size at age 50 so maybe I'll have to shoehorn that in sooner than later. There are plenty of things I can be doing now (or at least once I'm free of school).

There's my thoughts on success. Hope it inspires you to think about your own sense of success.

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