This morning, I talked to my little sis for over an hour. Someone had told her to “make something of herself.” And she’d better hurry, because she had only a few more years to make it. It made her a little nervous.
Just in case you’re wondering, my sister is no layabout. She has a resume that will make any sane person jealous. She just doesn’t make big bucks.
We talked about yardsticks of success. I fished out the Great Learning – one of the four pillars of Chinese classical education – to gain our bearings:
The Ancients, wishing to manifest luminous virtue to all under Heaven, first put in order their own states.
Wishing to govern their states, they first regulated their families.
Wishing to regulate their families, they first cultivated their own persons.
Wishing to cultivate their persons, they first rectified their minds-and-hearts.
Wishing to rectify their minds-and-hearts, they first made their intentions sincere.
Wishing to make their intentions sincere, they first extended their knowing.
The extension of knowing lies in investigating things and affairs.
So there: the secret of success lies in self-cultivation, in setting one’s intentions with sincerity. The rest may follow of its own accord. By the same token, success that is not rooted in deep foundations is a house of cards.
This afternoon, I heard Bernadette Jiwa on a podcast. She was talking about building a business with heart:
I think there’s an obsession with scaling and growth, and scaling I guess for the sake of scaling’s sake, and not understanding what that will mean to your work and how you touch people, and how you impact people. It may be not for the better… Maybe it’s okay not to scale. Maybe it’s okay to reach 100 people, 1,000 people, and enjoy making an impact alongside making a living.
Maybe it’s no coincidence that this Easter, these voices reverberate with me, while I listen to Bach’s Easter Oratorio again.
Why pay any attention to a yardstick of success that is not of our own making? We choose our paths, and our paths choose us. What is your path? Why did it choose you?