Duyan ng gunita’y umugoy… marahan
Nakaraa’y nagbukas ng tarangkahan
Bago pumasok kita’y aanyayahan
Sa pamamasyal doon ako’y samahan
Hayaang kamay mo’y muli kong hawakan
Na muli ng halik labi mo’y dampian
Sa duyan ng gunita ako’y hayaang
Mahimbing umidlip sa iyong kandungan
Pag-ugoy ng duyan huwag mong pipigilin
Hayaang gunita nakaraa’y lakbayin
Doon na lamang kita pwedeng dalawin
Doon pwede kitang hagkan at yakapin
Dahan-dahan sanang umihip ang hangin
Umawit ito at duyan ay uguyin
Nakaraa’y masuyo kong lalakbayin
Hanggang rurok ng ligaya’y aking marating
Halika na’t sa duyan ako’y samahan
Ang gunita’y magsilbi nating tagpuan
Naudlot na pagsuyo dito’y dugtungan
Sumpaa’y dito bigyan ng katuparan
Si Bathala sana sumamo ko’y dinggin
Nawa’y ‘di ihinto… pagihip ng hangin
Patuloy sana nitong duya’y uguyin
Sa gunita puso nati’y Kanyang bigkisin
“True success is not what we gather but what we become.”
– Apurvakumar Pandya
How do you view success? How do you measure it? These two are the usual questions whenever the topic is discussed.But I think the more important question that should be asked is – Do you consider yourself successful?
Before you answer those questions, let’s revisit the definition of the word. Let’s check how online dictionaries define success.
Cambridge’s definition of the word is something broad – “The achieving of the results wanted or hoped for.” Colin’s goes – “The achievement of something that you have been trying to do.” Oxford is more specific with its definition – “The attainment of fame, wealth or social status.” Merriam-Webster’s is almost the same as Oxford’s – “The attainment of wealth, favor or eminence.”.
Our favorite research assistant – “Dr. Google” – says that success is “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose” and “the attainment of popularity and profit.”
Let’s also check the synonyms: prosperity, affluence , wealth, riches, opulence, and triumph.
I hope that the foregoing definitions and synonyms are sufficient to help you come out with meaningful and definitive answers to the questions I asked at the beginning of this article. And by the way, do the ideas conveyed by those definitions and synonyms jibe with what you think success is?
The definitions and synonyms above actually show the way people in our society quantify success. They tell us about the measuring sticks being used by most people, including you probably, to determine whether or not a person is successful. Everything boils down to one or a combination of the following: wealth, fame and power.
So, when asked who are the most successful people in the world, people never fail to mention the names of the world’s richest men – Jess Bezos, Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and the others who are listed in Forbes’ top 10 world’s billionnaires . The next ones in our lists are the showbiz, sports, media, and political personalities. We also remember the names of quite a few people – some of them could be our own friends – who excel in their respective fields of endeavors when we discuss about successful people.
Now, let me ask some questions.
Are those people we consider successful happy also? Have the money, fame, power, and accomplishment they possess brought them happiness? They are the only ones, or their relatives (or their close friends and confidants), who could answer those questions. People outside of their inner circle could only make speculations and assumptions.
Many believe that rich people live under the constant pressure of wanting to amass more wealth – famous people to ensure that their stars keep shining – politicians to perpetuate themselves to power – so much so that they forget to live a life. Thus, they are perceived to be unhappy.
At least, they have the money.
“But can their money buy them happiness?” This question has been asked so many times that it could be considered meaningless already. But in the light of the present discussion it should be asked, not for the purpose of having it answered, but as a point to ponder on.
We presume that with all the luxuries the money of the wealthy, famous and powerful could afford, it’s almost impossible that they are not happy. Unless it is true that of the needs which Maslow’s identified in the hierarchy of needs, only the basic ones (physiological and safety) could be covered by money. The psychological needs (esteem needs, belongingness and love needs) and self-fulfillment needs are definitely not available in the shelves of even the most expensive stores.
Here is the next question I would like to ask – “Are they healthy?”
They are already rich, famous, and powerful. They are truly blessed if they are also in good shape. Of course they are – financially. What about physically, emotionally, and mentally? In their quest for riches, fame and power, did they not sacrifice their health, values, and relationships? While they sit on their thrones clutching their coffer, do they feel peace flowing within them? Again, they are the only ones, and the people around them, who could give a definite answer. They are the only ones who know whether or not they are suffering from any debilitating disease, mental anguish, and emotional stress?
I brought out the questions on happiness and health in the discussion of success because I believe that there is a need to strike balance between the ephemeral and the ethereal when defining the concept. The prevailing view of success is materialistic. We attach tangible proofs to it – money, big house, new car, degree, job title, a certain body type, etc. I am not saying that such act (of attaching those tangible proofs to success) is wrong. I just consider it as not encompassing.
What about simple people who did not attend school, don’t have cars, and live in simple houses in far-flung farming and fishing villages happily living a simple life and diligently performing their role in society? Can’t they not be considered successful in their own right?
When you don’t have a mansion – a car – fancy clothes – expensive jewelry – a university degree – huge amount in the bank, when you’re not famous and not powerful, when you’re just an ordinary decent individual honestly earning a living and contended with what you have and what you’re capable of achieving and you’re happy and healthy, would people not consider you successful?
If a person’s goal is to be happy and healthy and he/she achieves it, isn’t that success?
Correlating happiness and health to success is a kind of paradigm shift that will make capitalists unhappy. It is the materialistic view of success that keeps most of their present business ventures alive.
Well, we define success in different ways. Success is subjective and I think that nobody could claim that their way of looking at it is the right one.
The most valuable lesson I learned about success is this – define it for yourself. Don’t allow other people to define success for you. Don’t subscribe to the standards they set. You know your capabilities and limitations more than anyone else, factor them when setting your success parameters. But be not satisfied with your current skill set. You have to improve and as you see yourself becoming better set the bars of your success higher. And most importantly, don’t forget that as you march towards the achievement of your simplest goals and the realization of your grandest ambitions, you should not sacrifice your happiness and health.
Studies suggest that an average person makes 35,000 choices per day. And you will be surprised by this – “Assuming that most people spend around seven hours per day sleeping and thus blissfully choice-free, [they make] roughly 2,000 decisions per hour or one decision every two seconds (Krockow, 2018).” You are about to complete one decision right now – and that is to continue reading. Thanks for that and I hope you decide to read on until the end.
We are in constant decision-making mode. In a span of one minute, adults make more decisions than breaths. But it is not my intention though to dig deeper into the scientific details of this decision-making process – like what behavioral scientists claim that 90% – 95% of our decisions are made subconsciously.
I just wish to point out what I consider as the ultimate consequences of the choices we made in the past and continue to make everyday.
You want to know? Read on.
The results of the collective decisions we made and continue to make are the following – what we have become and the kind of life that we live.
The person you are now – physically, emotionally, mentally, socially, spiritually (that is if you, like me, believe that God exists), whatever you have accomplished, and where you currently stand in the socio-economic stratum are the consequences of the all the choices you made in life. You and your life are the products of your choices.
To explain further, I could cite several studies (the way I did in the first paragraph of this essay) and mention the contributions made by famous philosophers on the subject. But I decided not to go that route but instead share what characters in some movies said about making choices and how they shape us as a person and affect the quality of our life.
Before we revisit those quotes from movies, just allow me to drop what Albert Camus, a philosopher, said about the topic we are exploring – “Life is the sum of all our choices.”
I don’t believe in the doctrine of predestination upheld by the followers of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. It just doesn’t make sense to me why God would give us free will if after all He already preordained everything. What I subscribe to, even if I am a Christian, is what the Buddhists and Hindus believe that our destiny as humans is determined by our actions, thoughts, and words. We therefore shape our own future through the decisions we make. The quality of our choices will establish our value as a person and determine the kind of life we live.
As Dr. Emmet Brown said in the movie “Back to the Future” – “We all have to make decisions that affect the course of our lives.” We have to do what we ought to. Subscribing to the doctrine of predestination would make us live passively waiting how the future that the God we believe designed for us would pan out.
Fatalism is fatal. To think that events in your life are fixed in advance and that you are powerless to change them is a death sentence. Tomorrow is yet to happen and you could control how the events would play out if you choose to. Your life is an empty script. You and you alone hold the pen. It is a travesty if you allow others to write the story of your life.
The next hours (or days, or weeks, or months, or years) are yet to happen. You can plan ahead. You can control the events of tomorrow. But only if you want. Gandalf of the “Lord of the Rings” fame comes to mind. He said, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
If you are not happy where you are you might want to consider what Chuck Noland in “Cast Away” told himself – ”I would rather take my chance out there on the ocean than to stay here and die on this s_ _ _hole island, spending the rest of my life talking… to a goddamn volleyball.
That exactly was my situation the year before I decided to cross the seas to become an expat teacher here in South Korea. My version of a s_ _ _ hole was that principal’s office which was like a lonely desolate island. I went there when I escaped from another s_ _ _ hole of place a year prior.
I chose not stay on those places for the simple reason that I did not have peace of mind, where I know I wouldn’t grow personally and professionally. So I did what I had to do.
What about you? How long have you been stranded in your own s_ _ _ hole island talking to your “Wilson”? When do you intend to make a move?
My loved ones and friends considered my going to South Korea in 2012 as ill-advised. I was being paid handsomely by the Pakistani owners of that Philippine school where I was. I had other sources of income as well. It was seemingly unwise (for them) for me to still want to work overseas at that time. That was for them but for me I don’t take risks (not even calculated ones) when it comes to my career. Teaching overseas was part of my career pathing.
I knew the path I was taking. I believed in what Santosh Patel said in the movie “Life of Pi” – “How can he find his own way if he does not learn to choose a path?” I chose the path that I felt would bring me closer to the realization of my dreams. I was earning quite satisfactorily (as far as Philippine standards are concerned) at that time but I was still so far away from my dream of financial independence.
But it was not all about money. During those times, I was facing a personal crisis and I felt I had to do something. I had to do one life-altering decision. That decision was propelled by both personal and professional motives. I was like Jake Sully, the main character in “Avatar,” saying – “Sometimes your whole life boils down to one insane move.”
Like Jake Sully you need to tame a toruk – yourself. I needed to tame a toruk – myself. We all need to be a Toruk Makto. Let the toruk we tamed bring us to the realization of our goals and dreams.
The “Land of the Morning Calm” was the perfect place for me to tame and rein my own toruk.
There are times when we have to make difficult decisions. And I could tell you that leaving my family and my comfort zone to face the uncertainties that going to (and working in) a foreign land brings was one of the hardest choices I had to make. And “the hardest choices require the strongest will” says the toughest nemesis of the Avengers (Yes! It’s Thanos.) Don’t be afraid to make hard decisions if you need to. Just make sure they are neither illegal nor immoral.
Before I end, allow me to give one more line from a movie – “Life is a choice. You can choose to be a victim or anything else you’d like to be.” That’s from Socrates, not the philosopher but one of the characters in the movie “Peaceful Warrior.”
It is my sincere hope that when your hair turns gray you would not repeat the lines delivered by Mike Banning (“London Has Fallen”) – “I am made of bourbon and poor choices.”
Let me end with an argument presented (not by a movie character this time but by Jean-Paul Sartre, a French philosopher), “Predetermined nature, facticity or essence do not control who or what we are; moreover, one is radically free to choose one’s destiny and it is one’s moral responsibility to do so.”
Krockow, E.M. (2018). How many decisions do we make each day?. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.sychologytoday.com
Sartre, J. P. (1956). Being and nothingness. (H. Barnes, Trans.). NewYork: Washington Square Press.