By Jessamy Baldwin
What does it mean to be successful today and should we care?
Einstein famously said: “Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value.”
Our personal definitions of success have changed over recent years and are in fact, ever changing. What I once deemed successful at 13 years old was very different to what I thought about the whole ‘shebang’ in my later teenage years. And that’s a far cry from how I feel now at 26.
As a millennial woman now well into my mid-twenties, I’ve recently re-evaluated the direction of my life and it’s got me thinking about this trending topic of success. How do we define it? Should it be defined? Should we care?
Those in my generation have always been told we can have it all. ‘Of course you can juggle being the CEO of your own company with a long-term relationship, have a handful of babies into your 40s (freeze your eggs if you want), travel the world, have hair like Kate Middleton, practice yoga on a daily basis and eat ‘clean’ – all while buying a flat in central London, looking after your first pet and maintaining a thigh gap (really?).
You want to know what I think? Let’s all stop striving for this socially conditioned prerequisite of success which seems to suggest that if we can’t do it all – we’ve failed miserably. It’s burning us out people! So many of my friends who work in London arrive at their office cubicles at 7am and don’t leave until 9pm – which is ‘early’ one told me last night. ‘But don’t worry’, they quickly assured me ‘I’m now off for work drinks’. Since when did life become so… hectic?
We’re addicted to being busy and even more obsessed with checking in with the world on our phones.
I am guilty of this too, but I am really trying to be better. When I was on my honeymoon, my husband Dave and I locked our phones in our hotel room safe. It was… weird at first. But by the time we arrived back at Guernsey airport, we didn’t even want to turn them back on. It was nice to drown out the background chatter for a while.
Re-evaluating my career ambitions
When we returned from New Zealand, people were constantly asking me ‘how’s the job hunt going?’ – to which I replied ‘hunting’s going ok’. It was as if I was some reluctant Amazonian seeking my latest kill with a less than enthusiastic manner. I had job offers – but none of it sat right in my gut. It didn’t feel right and I would wake up in the night thinking – is this really what I want my life to be?
I didn’t want to work for 40-50 hours a week in an office that smelt like an old egg mayonnaise sandwich, follow orders from a grumpy Sandra in HR or settle for a job that would just about pay for my half of the rent, my cosmopolitan obsession and petrol.
In the madness of striving for ‘success’, think about what you actually want from life. It’s never too late to change direction or jump on a different train. I know for some, striving for prestige and promotions in a well-known company is what makes them tick and that’s fine too – if it’s what genuinely makes you happy. For me, I’ve always desired freedom. I started a blog back in 2013 called ‘Be Free’ and I think it speaks to the fact that I’ve always wanted autonomy before prestige. And in fact, when you’re doing something you’re passionate about, kudos often comes naturally from being brave enough to start something new.
We are Generation AON (All or Nothing). Up at 5am for spinning, avocado on toast, morning meetings, lunch date, presentation to client, after work cocktails, in to bed at 2am. Or, Netflix and chill.
It’s like we’re on a yoyo life diet and maybe what we all need is a little more balance in each day. Our generation is educated, driven and brought up to believe that to have it all, we must do it all. Our teachers, parents and even Oprah have told us, with the best intentions, to sprint towards corporate life, to compete with others and, with ourselves.
This article appeared in the April edition of GSYLIFE magazine.