30 For 30/30 #16 – Redefining Success via Living with Less

This is the 16th post in my 30 for 30/30 series where I am publishing a new post each day for the next 30 days within a 30-minute window without much of a plan. You can read about why I’m doing this by clicking this link.

Here’s a little-known fact about me:

I’ve spent many years, even entire decades, journeying down different paths that all pointed in the same direction.

Some examples

  • When I graduated from college in 1984 (fours later than my contemporaries) with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology, I briefly enrolled in a Protestant seminary only to discover I no longer believed in the concept of deity, in fact, that I had no beliefs whatsoever.
  • When I graduated from medical school in 1991 and completed my residency two years later, I’d spent nearly ten years preparing for a career in medicine.
  • By the time I left a subsequent career in higher education after a decade of teaching and occupying a few college administration positions, I’d impacted hundreds of students and faculty members in the process.
  • When I finally stopped caring whether or not anyone read what I wrote—books, blogs, articles, poetry—I’d spent yet another decade obsessing over making it as an online entrepreneur. As it turns out, attention isn’t the right currency for a writer. If it comes, it comes; If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.

Being a writer has never been defined by the end result, but by the practice itself.

Though each of these paths might seem different, they each involved service to others. As many who came before me have stated, a life spent in the service of others is a life well lived. It might not be a richly compensated life, but the rewards of serving others are often more meaningful than financial reward.

Dreams and false metrics

Dreams are like the North Star, reminding us of a general direction by which we carve a pathway. Dreams can point the way, but they aren’t necessarily the path.

I’m now at the point in my life’s journey where I can see that most of the many of the metrics for success I adopted as a younger man were false: money, status, home ownership, titles, attention, Instagram likes…were all false metrics for success.

I’ve realized that I don’t actually need to make a lot of money, attention, or much of anything to be content. I don’t need to have an impressive title on my business card to feel successful. I don’t need a million readers to pay rapt attention to everything I write and publish. 

All of these metrics have their place, but the inherent danger lies in attaching ourselves to the potential success they seem to promise.

Living with less helps you redefine what success means for you

Minimalism has helped me see beyond the superficial attachment to false metrics for satisfaction and success.

In my minimalist journey, I’ve found that what makes me feel successful, aren’t the external attributes and monetary rewards of my work. It might sound trite to say that the work itself is the reward, but I won’t because I don’t think that I’m there just yet. 

What I can say is that being of service to others is where I derive most of my satisfaction and success. Giving of my time and skills set to assist my fellow humans to feel less alone, to overcome a barrier to achievement, or maybe say something that gives them a good laugh is what matters.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama is fond of saying, the practice of kindness has become my religion.

Kindness is the ultimate currency by which we can all define success. – Baz

Whether it’s expressed by helping an elderly person pump fuel in their car, retrieving a shopping item on a top shelf for a shorter shopper, or bringing coffee to my sweetheart’s bedside in the morning – the ultimate metric of success is service (and a good dark roast doesn’t hurt).

(22 minutes)

Categorized as 30-for-30

By Baz

writer | coach | practical buddhist

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