I recently dipped my toes back into what has become to be known as the ‘real world’. You know, that place of business and commerce , success measured by title, possessions, wealth and hierarchy. It was a short lived, interesting and welcome experience. It reminded me of my own success and wealth in my ‘Alternative World’.
I’ve never been driven by money or title, had my eyes blinkered on climbing the ‘career ladder’ striving for recognition, advancement, ‘power’. My motivators have been ‘simpler ‘ things. and as I’ve aged and gained in self worth my achievements and goals have been easier to identify and recognise.
We grow up going through an education system that trains us to obtain the best academic results in order to earn the most money in the highest position within our chosen mainstream profession that we can. That our success in life is based on our future job title and wealth. We are offered ‘careers advice’ helping us choose between accountant, lawyer, builder, plumber, funeral director, engineer.
Many people spend there entire life aspiring to reach the ‘next level’ step up the job title list, the recognition of higher salary bracket. They spend their life working towards future success.
I believe I have managed to recognise and enjoy my current, present and real successes that exist in MY real world in the here and now.
When I worked in society’s structured and measured world I was driven, not by money or title but by the people I worked with and who I did that work for. I have never (except in my first 3 months between education and work), been in a role that has made me unhappy. I have taken jobs based on the personality and ethos of the ‘people in power’, that is to say I have worked for people I admire and respect. I have worked hard for them because I wanted to ‘help’ their business, my motivator being ‘not wanting to let them down’ and ‘desire to deliver on my promise’. I’ve worked in roles where I at least have been motivated by the end result that matters.
I’ll explain that more clearly. The business world is a bit like magic – its all smoke and mirrors. The reality is largely irrelevant, its all about the PERCEPTION. Take, for example the recruitment industry. To me success was getting a job seeker into a job they really wanted, finding a business the employer they really needed. To my employer the success was the commission rate and the income outcome of that transaction.
I was, by default ‘successful’ in a real world sense. I was top earner, consultant of the year, I got promoted, I got promoted again.
However, as much as the money was handy what motivated me was the new skills I learned, the confidence I gained, the customers I helped, and the thank you letters I received.
I left the ‘real world’ when I could no longer balance the smoke and mirrors game and the time that took to uphold with MY need to feel good. It took a really long time to tire of it completely. My frustrations with the game often out-weighed by my desire to ‘achieve’ for the CEOs and MDs I admired and still admire (as individuals for the way they run their businesses and treat their staff). I guess I liked the pats on the back and the adulation. However, in the end the pointlessness of it all drove me forward.
This ‘real world’ success came at a price I wasn’t prepared to pay. Too many compromises in the time I had with my son, my husband, my friends, my hobbies. So whilst I was a success in a business sense I felt I was failing and compromisng in other areas.
Whilst working and affording new things and driving nice cars and gaining kudos I was tormented by not having time to do homework with my son, being too tired to have a romantic dinner with my partner. Whilst working in this real world several things happened. A friend died of inoperable cancer at the age of 34, very successful sales and marketing manager , working all the hours . A colleague two years off retirement with plans to travel and climb mountains when he hit 65, dropped dead without warning. A friend split from her husband.
John, my partner was very stressed with his job and the commuting. He also hated it. The office politics, the ladder climbing. It was taking its toll on our life. We were’ successful’ in this ‘real world’ – company cars, large house, the word ‘manager’ in our job titles. But it had no bearing on our real lives. We were tired of the pointlessness of it all. The smoke and mirrors bullshit.
My recent ‘toe dipping’ came as a result of wanting to support a person I respect and like. Who is achieving at a faster pace than the infrastructure around her is evolving to facilitate it. I wanted to offer her a little relief from the stress and I fancied learning a little more about whats going on in the big wide world.
The experience made me remember how much I hate the bullshit. People ‘liking’ you for what you can bring to THEIR success and wealth, a constant need to watch your back, keep an eye on the competition and remind people of your status. Suspicion, back stabbing, false praise. Your eye constantly on the prize. The prize; more financial wealth , higher social standing, bigger contacts, larger contracts. It might be for some. And that’s fine. But its not for me.
Success for me is in the here and now. I have no savings, no spare cash, I drive an old car, my mortgage debt is through the roof, I wear clothes from charity shops and Primark, I think twice about everything I buy. I have, however achieved riches and success beyond my wildest dreams.
In my ‘alternative world’ I am as rich as I could hope to be. I have a partner of 20 years who loves me unconditionally , and I love him the same. I have a son who loves me; who is happy,well balanced and enjoying life. My house (my bank’s house!) looks out across mountains and fields with prancing lambs and budding trees. I live in a community filled with people who love me and of places where I can be me. I meet people every day who are here to have a good time and want to share a glimpse into their world. I paint and cut glass and share in a community of sole traders who revel in each others skills and strengths. I spend my days at home with my partner, and I’m here every day when my son comes home. My success is now. My happiness is in the present.
Sometimes I forget how successful I am, and I have a blip or downward spiral but real life, no matter how ‘perfect’ comes with its trials and challenges . The outside world gets in and you have to deal with it. However, on the whole I can truly say I have found my utopia.
There is no greater achievement in life than finding love, recognising its worth, enjoying the here and now, and being happy in your own skin. Measure your wealth by the people you love and who love you. Not by your bank balance and job title.