Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” Ecclesiastes 9: 10 also says, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going”. The measure for success is not found in the type of job, career, or vocation a person chooses to engage in, but in how well they perform what they are called to do with passion. How success is measured will look different for everybody because being successful has much to do with the things that are considered important to each individual. What is success for you may seem like a failure for others; thus measuring success can be a very subjective undertaking.
I believe success is measurable when a person has found their calling and are passionately pursuing it, giving their best effort at all times. With this said, I also believe that one of the reasons why so many people are unhappy is that they allow society to fit them into a construct of their idea of success. There is stiff competition for accolades and achievements, and those who don’t meet society’s standards are left to feel like failures. Children are taught early the importance of excellent grades to get into the right college, sometimes to the detriment of their emotional and psychological well-being. Adults are pressured to keep up with the Joneses at all cost. We want to be on the waiting list to join the right clubs that will help us maintain the status quo, because, in our minds, this is what being successful means. If this were true, why is it that so many people, after achieving these things, still find that they have not escaped the pits of misery? I would say it is because success cannot be measured using these mediums.
So what does success look like? Don’t let people make you feel bad because your idea of success is not conventional. Not everyone in the world will find satisfaction in the things that society throws at us. Your success must be defined by the things that provide you with the most joy and will enable you to have a peaceful existence. If success robs you of your happiness to live life to its fullest, then that version of success is questionable. Too often in conversations with individuals, I’m left with the impression that success is only measurable when we have an overflow of material things, achievements, and accolades. Though these things are a part of being successful, they cannot be the complete package. Success is being able to live life on your terms and being comfortable that every decision you make takes you closer to your chosen destination.
Please don’t be ashamed of the progress you are making. Whatever you are currently doing, commit to giving it your all. Work at your pace. People will try to rush you to suit their agendas, but your striving for success should be all about you. Don’t allow people to judge your efforts by what you are doing. You may not be in a traditional field, but that has little to do with the strength of your character. The two quotations above resonate with me; they are a reminder that we ought to claim ownership of what we do even if there is no applause. Be proud of the strides you are making and don’t allow people to discount your efforts. You may never meet the standards of success as defined by others, but don’t let it disrupt your flow.
Whatever you are called to do, give it your best effort, do it as if you will never have another opportunity to do anything. Don’t get worried or envious when you see other people moving at a different pace; focus on running your race. If you continue to work at your own pace, eventually, people will have to accept that you are on a journey. Mediocrity is not optional; you must leave your mark wherever you go, and you will never be forgotten. Success comes not because of what you choose to do on your path to greatness. You are successful because you enjoy what you do; no one can take that away from you. Let your work speak for itself and refuse to have others define what your success should be like.