The older I get, the more I believe the direction of the majority is the opposite of maturity. Meaning, whatever the culture deems popular is almost never superior. And in my experience, whatever most people do is probably not what I should do.
For example, most people are in debt, most people watch television, most people look at pornography, most people work for someone else, most people don't have a retirement plan, most people get divorced and most people rent their homes.
However, Veronica and I have always been extremely cautious about doing "what most people do." In our experience, when we see a metaphorical crowd, we stop and ask, "why is everyone running over there?"
But again, most people don't even think twice. Most people just chase what everyone else chases. Most people desire what the media and culture taught them to desire. In turn, most people create the same life everyone else creates.
But what if what this world calls "the smart direction" isn't the right direction? What if trendy or common was actually foolish and unwise? Below, I have briefly outlined three common forms of success that often leave people bankrupt, searching, and broken.
1. The Fight For Personal Independence
For all of recorded history, marriage has been a critical element to a thriving society. However, we are witnessing the birth of the singleness revolution. A time in which the culture at large has permitted sexual promiscuity as an alternative to a life-long monogamous relationship.
A time when commitment is viewed as holding you back, slowing you down, or preventing you from having fun.
But it's more than marriage. Even couples are disconnected from the commitment to others as they fight for their personal autonomy, live independent of a community, and view accountability as a form of oppression or judgment.
In our experience, it's couples who are simply never available. Sure, there is always a "good" reason... "The kids are sick. John had a hard day at work. We've just got too much to do tonight." Now, all of these are valid excuses in one-off experiences. But when the occasional excuse becomes the pattern of the relationship, they're simply revealing the priority of their hearts: Independence and a friendship that's driven on their terms.
Ultimately, stillness and availability are the currencies of relational success. Are you too busy to build rich relationships? Do you elevate your passions above the people in your life? Are you prioritizing your freedom before your family and friends? But most of all, do you believe that success lies in a life without real commitment, real submission, and real responsibility to others?
Look, wisdom has told me that the fastest path to maturity is within the hardest relationships we have. The life-long commitment to a spouse. The willingness to raise a child. And the tough conversation with a friend. You can certainly avoid all of these duties, just know that you're also avoiding the ultimate development--of you.
2. The Preservation Of Youth
If you haven't noticed, we live in a society that has elevated youth above seniority. In my opinion, it's likely a symptom of a faithless culture struggling to have hope after death—and instead of accepting reality and looking to the fruits of age, we desperately attempt to prolong body, life, and visual relevancy.
As a result, people are more concerned with looking young than having young people look up to them for direction.
But it's not just the sedation of age, it's also a perspective on life. Many of those who fight to preserve youth seem to have lost their excitement for the future, and instead, appear to be in a constant effort of getting back to sometime in their past. This may be the catalyst for the mid-life crisis or having affairs or plastic surgery or dressing like you did in your 20's.
But there is something to be said about a person who embraces their age. A man or woman content with the natural degradation of their body. A person who has hope even in the face of death.
Ultimately, there is nothing wrong with maintaining a youthful spirit. There isn't anything inappropriate about maintaining your health. But there is something incorrect with a person who strives to reverse what is natural to the human experience.
3. The Heart Of Fame & Fortune
Money and influence have a way of blinding us to sound wisdom. Ultimately, they make promises they cannot keep. They lead us to believe that pleasure, rest, and joy lie within our abilities to accumulate or persuade. We think, "I'll be happier if I just have a little bit more money." or "I'll be more valuable if I have more followers."
Actor Jim Carey once wrote, "I wish everyone could become rich and famous so they could see that it's not the answer."
Seven years ago an older man pulled me aside and told me, "Dale, if your only goal is to become rich, you'll never achieve it." At the time, I was more focused on making money than making meaning. But as I grow older, it has become more obvious that the love of money is a place filled with hurt children, thin relationships, and empty lives.
It's easy to believe that more is better. But instead of engineering riches, let wealth be the result of your passions. Shift your focus from making a million dollars to helping a million people. Let your influence be an overflow of your heart and yearn to win others with how God made you instead of how the world told you to be.
True success is in the contentment of your position today. To be in control of your money without it controlling you. True influence is knowing you have a good name, not having your name be known. But most of all, true success is believing your value and joy isn't derived from what you have or who you are in society. Instead, it comes from knowing who God is and how He plans to use you for His purposes.
Ultimately, success is often counterintuitive to how the culture defines it. In other words, being weak is strong. Being quiet is loud. And being last is first.
There's a line in the Bible that has always put a check in my spirit, "Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God."
Most people are desperately fighting for personal freedom, the preservation of youth, and the lifestyle of the rich and famous. Most people are relationally and morally bankrupt as they live out the statistics of depression, anxiety, and insomnia. But you don't have to be like most people. You can choose to follow what is true and is healthy and is life-giving. You can choose to go left when everyone runs right. You can be happy with what you have, put yourself into submission to others, and embrace the natural age and maturity you hold.
It's my hope that you understand that "success" isn't always what it seems. But true success can be found; it's just not in the place where most people seek it.
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Finding True Success
It’s my hope to help people find the success they so desperately desire. Below, is a set of books written by my wife and I titled, “Find Your Calling: Discover What You’re Meant To Do: A 21-Day Guide For Him/Her” These books (whether you buy them together or separate) have been a tool for thousands to escape the purposeless prison sentence that life can often become. They’re interactive, they're short, and they're cheap. You can pick up your copy by clicking the image below.