A dear friend asked me how she got lost. Why she no longer recognises herself. How she came this far and forgot all her achievements. How she washed up on the beach and had nothing to show for it. How the success she had in the past never made it to shore with her. This is my letter to you, me and her.
Jeritah, I hope this finds you well…
There is something to be said here about living in the past.
I can understand demanding more from yourself. Pushing yourself. Breaking the bar. I can understand wanting it all to mean something. To have a badge to show for it. A token. I can understand that burning desire. That ‘Why’. That motive. I understand.
But you and I have to be careful about judging ourselves by the standards that our former versions once set. Who we used to be set these goals with no idea of how the journey ahead would look like. They had the finish line in mind. Bright lights, confetti and all. What they couldn’t have known, was how much more fun the race itself would be…
A while back, my wife, my sister and I stayed up late to watch videos of some of the biggest projects we have ever done. None of which we are a part anymore. We sat there reminiscing on how good that work was but the whole time I was secretly wondering whether we would ever be part of a project that big again. Was the best part of my career behind me? Was it all a big fluke and is this how it sounds like when the other shoe finally drops? It was a scary question. It still is.
But here is the thing…
Back then (5 years ago) I was the director of one the biggest TV shows in Africa but I was nowhere near as happy as I am now. Now, I am a better husband, a better brother, I am a much, much better leader. A better friend. I write better, I work harder and I have a much bigger appreciation for value. I developed all these things after the climax of my career. Not during. I became a better man in my twilight.
The point I am painfully trying to make is that if we define ourselves by the goals we want to achieve, then life will continuously slap us in the face because there is so much we don’t have control of along the way. There is so much that is continuously changing around us. Our jobs change. Our skill changes. Our experiences change. What we know changes. The people we love change. We change. This growth, this evolution, this is what happens when we are busy being blinded by goals. This is the fun part.
You and I are not our achievements. Our achievements will come and go. Who we are at our core will remain with us long after that. You and I are what this journey turns us into. Take your eyes off the goal for a moment and look around you. Do you like who you have become? Do you love the people you have surrounded yourself with? Do you see the value in the things you have? Or is the goal the only thing that matters? What about the people you love? What do they think of the person you are becoming while you relentlessly chase this goal? Most of your life will amount to this chase. Your achievements are solitary moments that are scarcely sprinkled on your path. They are nothing but beats in your story. This is why being stuck on whether or not we achieve these things is not something we need to obsess over. Not at the expense of what it feels like to be alive.
What I find much better to do, is to obsess about the journey. The process. Use our goals and targets as methods of learning more about ourselves as opposed to using them to judge ourselves. Be ready to let go of the goal if it no longer lines you up with what you stand for. I stand for love, progress and meaning. If I lose these things while chasing a goal, then I know it’s time to stop. But if the goal encourages these values in me, then I don’t need to worry about achieving it because I am already halfway there. The goal has no more value than a location pin. It reminds me where I am going but it amounts to nothing more than a single point in my trip. The rest of the trip is how I find out who I really am.
If we do it because we want to achieve it, then we will always fear failure. Fear makes for a terrible guide. If we do it because we enjoy the process, we will never fear failure because what is important is who we are becoming while following this trail. Whether or not you succeed is not the point, the point is who you become while doing it. You will fail way more times than you will succeed, but if you’re not paying attention to the journey then you are doing the same thing as not trying at all. Love. Love is the guide. Let love guide you through the things that give meaning to your life. That way the only bar you set is whether you are enjoying yourself.
In school, I achieved because I was afraid of failure. In Life I achieved because I enjoyed the experience. I trusted the process. I stopped setting goals. I set experiences.
That is how I found myself writing a novel for no other reason except that I can. That’s also why I write on Quora. Writing is something I get to do for no charge. No charge except for my fingers on a keyboard. Writing is how you and I have finally met. I wrote this in my kitchen and you are reading it from wherever you are. Who cares what the goal is? I haven’t met you, but you’ve met me. Writing is how I connect.
Whether I am successful or not doesn’t matter. What matters is I am enjoying the hell out of myself while doing it.
That is how the things I love stopped feeling like chores and started feeling like adventures. I wish the same for you.