Article by Marc Gilson, Director of Client Services, Centerpointe Research Institute
I came across a post in an online forum the other day that got my attention. The original poster said he had just gotten his “first real 8-to-5 job” and was asking for advice and tips on how to succeed at it.
People seemed eager to dish out advice. Here are just a few samples:
Many responses included phrases like “Take it from me,” or “I know from experience.” Clearly, these people had learned a lesson or two about survival in the workplace. And if you’ve managed to be successful in your job, you can likely relate to some of those pearls of wisdom. I know I can.
But did you notice anything about the tone of these bits of advice? A tone of cynical self-sacrifice, maybe? A tone of distrust, deceit, and suspicion? While some commenters posted more cheerful things like, “Good luck! You can do this!”, most seemed more like warnings than encouragements.
I’m sure the commenters were very well-intentioned with their advice. They seem like wised voices of experience who’ve been around the block a time or two. Most of them had probably been at their jobs for a long time, had likely made good money, and were viewed as stalwart reflections of “what some elbow grease and hard work can get you.” Maybe some had retired after a successful career.
But when I tried to put myself in the position of the young man who had posted the original request for feedback – I was hit with a sour feeling.
If I had been in his shoes, reading those responses at a young age, just as I was trying to get my career off the ground, I think I would have felt depressed or at least a little discouraged. I would be thinking,
“Is this what I have to look forward to?”
Maybe these well-meaning advisors had been successful, and they were certainly willing to share their tips for success.
But were they happy?
This is the sort of question that gets us dangerously close to beard-stroking philosophical debates over “what is happiness,” and so forth. We don’t need to tackle that one today. Nor would I engage in trying to judge the lives of anyone in an online forum who’s just sharing some feedback.
But it’s at least worth asking ourselves whether success and happiness are really always the same thing.
In fairness, the original question was not how to be happy all the time, or even how to be happy with your job. It was how to succeed.
At the risk of reading too much into these comments, it looks to me like many of these folks, though possibly successful, were not very happy. After all, how many happy people do you know who suffer from sleep deprivation and indigestion, skip lunches, work when sick, and generally sacrifice their health and personal lives for work?
Not many, I would guess.
So what’s going on here? Is it true that success and happiness don’t fit together? Must you choose between one or the other? Or is the system rigged? Are we ultimately forced to choose between the two because we really are cogs in the uncaring machine of business that wants our commitment not our contentment?
To get to the bottom of this, I’d like to share a story about a friend and client of mine. Let’s call him Chris.
Chris has lived an interesting and remarkably successful life. He holds two masters degrees and a doctorate, all from prestigious universities. He is considered one of the world’s leading authorities on a very specific kind of surgery. He’s written two books, been interviewed on TV and radio numerous times, and holds patents on several medical inventions that, along with his medical practice have yielded him a considerable amount of wealth.
In addition, Chris has a wonderful wife and two terrific children. He’s really an impressive example of success, at least by conventional standards. Few people who meet Chris would ever suspect that Chris, for most of his life, had been hiding a secret.
In his own words:
“Weirdly enough, I wasn’t happy. Ever. I knew how to act happy and figured that’s pretty much what everyone else who seemed happy was doing. But I knew it was just an act. I didn’t know what real happiness felt like but I knew I wasn’t feeling it.”
Obviously Chris had many blessings in life and had never been shy about jumping into hard work when needed. Chris had the drive and ambition to succeed and had done so in rather spectacular fashion. So why wasn’t he happy?
Let me share another quote from Chris himself about that:
“Because I’d been able to do so much and over-achieve, I didn’t think I had any right to complain or say that to anyone, let alone even admit it to myself. How could I point to all the terrific things in my life and then say that I wasn’t happy? I’d been to the top of the mountain and had to admit that the view wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Who would believe that? I barely believed it myself but it’s true anyway. If I told other people that, they would say I’m crazy.”
Is Chris crazy? Delusional? Spoiled?
Is he just bad at counting his many blessings? Are his standards just too high? Is this just a case of existential angst? Why would a guy like that–a guy who has it all–be unhappy? And given how wonderful his life appeared to be compared to those less fortunate, some might even say,
“How dare he be unhappy! He has no right to complain!”
It turns out there is an explanation for this apparent disconnect between Chris’ many successes and his lack of real happiness. In fact, what Chris discovered is something that likely affects millions of people who, while successful in various ways, just aren’t happy.
In the second part of this three-part series we’ll find out what Chris discovered about his past, and how it allowed him to make some very simple changes that transformed him from an unhappy success to a person with a truly complete experience of success – one that includes an unshakable joy and happiness.
Coming next: “How to Have it All, Part 2: Small Change, Huge Returns.”
Centerpointe Research Institute was founded by the late Bill Harris in 1989. The Institute produces as it’s flagship a product called ‘Holosync®,’ an audio program formulated to recreate the brain wave patterns of experienced meditators. If you use this program daily, you can achieve the same results in 8 times the time it takes for traditional meditation.
If you would like to get a free e-book called ‘The New Science Of Super Awareness’ by Bill Harris, please visit this web site.
When you sign up, you will also be able to get the audiobook version for free. You can also get a free demo of Holosync® as well.