Surviving success

I once saw the musician Sting talking on television. In the course of the interview, he said "Success and happiness are not the same thing". Then he stopped, turned to look directly into the camera, and said "I’m going to repeat that. Success and happiness are not the same thing". 

Success brings many rewards: financial security, self esteem, excitement, continuous learning, new friends and environments, physical comforts, but it also has its costs. Some of the costs are things we lose or give up: privacy, intimacy, community, involvement with the day-to-day activities of the family, and, most precious of all time. Some of the costs have to do with basic health: success can mean lack of sleep, over-rich meals, too little exercise, airports and sick buildings, adrenaline dependency and the many small symptoms of daily stress. As well as lack, success can bring excess: too many urgent decisions, too many conflicting demands, too much praise, too many invitations. too many strangers who want to be friends, too many sycophants laughing at your jokes, too much power over other people’s lives. For many, success brings fear: fear of failure, fear of being found out to be less brilliant, wonderful, creative, insightful or knowledgeable than the public imagines, fear that the bubble will burst; or fear of others’ jealousy, fear of losing touch with family and friends, fear of isolation. Perhaps the heaviest cost of all is the loss of personal freedom. Success has its own momentum. Success can make you lose your direction. I remember walking through a busy street market in London. A dusty shop window, full of antiques and memorabilia, caught my eye. I stopped to look at these once-cherished pieces of the past. An old man came and stood beside me. Then he turned to me and said just one thing, "Memories last longer than dreams". Dreams can be forgotten, or lost along the way. The sense of purpose, of meaning, can be buried under the mountain of rewards.  I recently met an extremely successful entrepreneur who said to me: "I've made all the money I ever wished for... I've got everything I ever wanted to buy, I've got the mansion, the shooting estate, the yacht. What do I do now? All I can do is make more money... anything else makes a mockery of the last 30 years of my life".  For him and for many others, surviving success begins with rediscovering a sense of self, of values and meaning and integrity. It's about enjoying life again; everything in it: what money can buy and what money can't buy. The things that last and the fleeting moments of a sunset or a baby’s laughter. Above all, rediscovering the simple vitality that comes of being in tune with your sense of purpose, with your loved ones, and with your own true nature.