“Hold your horses when you are coming to judge people. You don’t necessarily know what someone’s true value is.” – Alain de Botton
Alain de Botton is one of the founders of School of Life and his TED Talk from 2009 addresses a kinder, gentler philosophy of success. He encourages people to ask and probe, and challenge the notion of what success means within our western cultures. I greatly appreciate the fact that he points out that you can’t be successful at everything and that you cannot have it all. The belief that you can, will only leave you feeling empty and unsuccessful in the long run.
We need to stop gobbling up what we are fed from media and advertisements. We need to understand that one person’s definition of success, can vary greatly from their friend or neighbor’s definition. As de Botton points out, “Our ideas of what it means to live successfully are not our own. They’re sucked in from other people…we should not give up on our ideas of success, but instead make sure they are our own. Focus in on our ideas and make sure we own them.”
This is why one of my questions on my podcast questionnaire is, “What is your definition of success?” You will notice that not ONE person has defined it in the same way as another. They are all uniquely different. So, we need to let people make up their own mind about what it means to be successful, and stop placing the same standards on everyone.
All of this brings to mind the recent news story of Adriana Almanza responding to Donald Trump’s comments about Mexican immigrants. She posted a Facebook message about her Mexican father on Father’s Day in response to Trump’s implication that Mexicans who come to the U.S. were dangerous, bringing crime and drugs. Almanza wrote:
Dear Mr. Donald Trump…I’d like to take a minute to introduce you to my father, Raul Almanza. As you so eloquently put it, he is one of the many that Mexico ‘sends’ to this country…It is no secret that he came here undocumented, unauthorized, or ‘illegal’ as you call it. He worked his ass off in the fields…traveling from state to state to find work. He helped provide for his parents and 9 siblings back home…Raul doesn’t have what you call a ‘formal education.’ He left high school early on to work and contribute to the household financially…he instilled in me the importance of education and a degree, even though he didn’t have one. My dad has worked 5-6 days a week since I was a child and I’ve never heard him complain about it one time. He doesn’t drink. He doesn’t use drugs. He is certainly not a criminal, rapist, or drug trafficker, as your speech suggested…Mr. Trump, in your speech, you claimed that Mexico doesn’t send the U.S. their best. But I beg to differ. If my dad is any representation of the type of people Mexico ‘sends,’ there is no doubt in my mind this country is getting the best. The problem is that you and I have a different definition of ‘the best.’…I sit here now with a Masters degree and a rewarding career. You know what that means? Absolutely nothing. My entire life the only thing I ever wanted was to make my dad proud. I wanted to be sure he knew that his sacrifices would never be taken for granted. We are not rich in wealth, sir. But we are rich in what matters.. knowledge, culture, & faith. We come from humble beginnings and every year we are reminded of that when we travel to Mexico to visit our beautiful family. To us, THAT is what matters. The best, to me, are those that work hard and still remain humble. That is exactly what my father embodies…
Our default definition of success in this country is one that leans toward Donald Trump over Raul Almanza – you make a lot of money, have a lot of material items then you are successful. Yet, I don’t see Trump as successful due to his bigoted remarks that are so often filled with hate. That is not success to me. Raul Almanza has the love, admiration and support of his daughter, and he has clearly loved and supported her. Isn’t that a greater success than millions of dollars?
Maybe you agree, maybe you don’t, but let’s take Alain de Botton’s advice and define success for ourselves…yes?