I have spent a good part of my life chasing rainbows. It's what we're raised to do. Our entire upbringing as American youths is oriented toward chasing the "American Dream."
If you asked me to define, exactly, the American Dream, I'd stutter around a bit (because I want to have an answer for everything), but I'd have to, ultimately, say that, I can't say. Because it's just a little different for everyone, I think. The common theme though that seems to run through each individual definition of this, the American Dream, is success. That is, the American Dream is found at a place called "Success."
I have come to the conclusion that there is no place called "Success."
You see, I used to think that success was something that you achieved-a destination that you strove to reach. In fact, we're raised with that as our credo. It starts young-get good grades in school, and graduate from high school as valedictorian. Get accepted into the best school with full scholarship. Then get a six-figure job, buy a two-story home in the suburbs, a luxury SUV and a sporty sedan in the garage, motor home and boat parked in the extra-wide side yard. Have two perfect children, join the Rotary, take advantage of the company match on your 401(k), take your family on relaxing vacations (to Disneyworld when the kids are young; on a cruise to the Bahamas when they're teens). And, having done all this, you've achieved success.
And so I began adulthood striving mightily for that success. And I found myself consistently disappointed. Because, you see, each time I reached the location that I thought was success, I found it barren, looking markedly similar to the place I came from. The proverbial pot-of-gold at the end of a rainbow. Have you ever chased the end of a rainbow? I have. And I realized very quickly that the end of the rainbow doesn't really exist. It is merely an apparition that remains always just out of reach.
You see, I've realized that I can't achieve success. There is no number that represents financial success. No career achievement that represents professional success. No written accomplishment that I can place on my shelf, then sit back and bask in having reached the pinnacle of literary achievement. No degree, certificate or grade equates to success. Homes land and cars-none of them are accurate measures of success.
I've found that success is a journey. A quote by famed UCLA basketball coach John Wooden illustrates, I think, true success.
"Don't measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability"
You see, success has nothing to do with achievements or what we acquire. It has everything to do with whether or not we've given it everything we've got. I try to end my day, every day, by looking back over the day, and asking myself if I truly gave my every action my all. Because, if I can truly say that I gave it my all, then I can truly say I have, at least for today, been a success.
Success is, in essence, a way of life-a never-ending journey. You can never sit back and say you've arrived.
I fear that too many of us spend far too much time chasing rainbows. Maybe it's because we don't truly understand success. Or maybe because we care less about actually being successful, and care more about others perceiving us as successful-as measured against the "American Dream"-that ever-present scoreboard. So, we buy the biggest house we can, and the most expensive car we can get financed. And go on vacations that we can't afford. We dress our children in the latest name-brand fashions. And act like we don't fight with our spouse. We hang our multiple college degrees in conspicuous places on our office walls, and get business cards printed with our highfalutin titles in oversized, bold type across the top. We push our kids, who hate the water, to achieve the quickest time on the freestyle races on the last day of swim lessons. We showcase our talents as often as we can, and make sure our friends and acquaintances are aware of our every accomplishment.
And none of it has a thing to do with success. Just elusive rainbow ends.
Have you been chasing rainbows?