The Price of Success
Updated: May 17, 2021
The Dalai Lama was purportedly asked what surprised him most about the world and he is reported to have said:
“Man! Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future. He lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”
I have used the words ‘purportedly’ and ‘reported’ because in the modern world in which we live its nearly impossible to know whether the person who is alleged to have said something did in fact say it; or whether a hoax has been perpetrated against us and we’ve shared something in good faith thinking it sounded right.
The best meme I have seen which warns against this ill is the one which is a photograph of Albert Einstein which says:
‘Don’t believe everything you read on the internet just because there’s a picture with a quote next to it.’
However, whether the sentiment is from the lauded Enlightened one or not, its still a good message and one that I was reminded of twice recently.
The first was when watching a 2013 released movie I had never heard of called ‘About Time’.
Despite a very decent cast and being written by Richard Curtis, of Love Actually, Notting Hill and Four Weddings fame, it had completely passed me by when it came out.
It is a film which I will not spoil for you other than to say that a certain poignant moment will certainly risk the unwary shedding a tear or two.
The other reason to recall the exhortation to live in the moment and think about the risks we put on ourselves through an obsession with working too much was one morning when I was going through the boxes of medication that I have to take everyday, having refilled my prescription.
Blood pressure regulators, anti-depressants, statins and tablets to control excess stomach acid.
Really since moving into the fifth decade of my life I seem to have joined a cliché middle-aged club where I will be providing a nice income stream for pharmaceutical companies; having been compelled by my doctor to take a daily supply of drugs til I die. Aside from my marriage its likely to be the most enduring relationship of my life!
Each pill that I must take is a reminder of all of the abdications of responsibility to treat my body like a Buddhist temple that I have made in my time on the earth so far.
Soaring to new heights is something that we all want to achieve in our professional lives but not in our Body Mass Index, cholesterol levels and our systolic and diastolic pressures.
And yet we are all prone to getting personal bests in all of those measurements as we relentlessly pursue the ideal of having a successful career.
For me, it is probably the need for the other medicine that is the root cause of it all.
Balancing out the neurotransmitters in my brain and lifting my mood help me see that my desire to achieve ‘success’ is skewed by the presumption that there will be a specific minute and hour and date in time when this happens.
As if the clouds will suddenly clear, the sky will open and angels will begin to sing and I’ll know that I have made it; and more importantly other people will know that I have made it.
That mythical moment is very real, but its not the day we begin living, it’s the day we die.
If reality is a game its one that ends at different times for different players so you can never do a ready-reckoner to see if you’ve done better than someone else.
Think about how you know if you won ‘Game of Life’ – you only did the calculation when everybody’s time was up and there’s nothing left to play for.
I try to remind myself that where I currently am is not the end of the journey, but it’s the end of the journey to date.
That way I can take pride and joy from appreciating that what I have is all that I needed to get here – and if you have all that already then what do you have to worry about?