Friday, July 26, 2013

What is Success?

The other day I went to a birthday party - full of geeks (there's something really funny about 20 geeks in an enclosed space in a social situation and there only being 4 corners to the room) - and they kept asking me what I do.

Curious question that. I've been struggling with it. Incidentally, it's the same reason I don't have a business card. I think I might be an I.T. facilitator (or a consultant but then, "consultant" is one of those titles I generally laugh at). So my answer differed every time someone asked me. I do community type things. I've been working on the Manaiakalani project etc.

The bits I'm most proud of are those that have effected communities. So I'm awfully proud of my time as events co-ordinator for AuckLUG (even though it's in no way an official position). I love the efforts that went into putting Tangleball together (though by it's very ethos, I can't really take too much credit as it's a community effort). The Manaiakalani project, while it's true that I filled some holes (without which, the project likely would have fallen over), it is a partnership between a whole lot of different entities that makes it work.

The people at this party kind of glazed over in much the same way that you might glaze over if told to concentrate on a screen showing nothing but white noise for 60 seconds. They're all young brilliant I.T. people earning quite a bit of money but I was struggling not to glaze over when they told me what they did. Eventually it all devolved, after a conversation with Renedox, with not really caring what we said there... so it'd become things like "I'm a professional hitman working for Rentokil" or "I skin people for money. Killing them is an extra and optional".

A friend of mine recently brought a house. Be still that green eyed monster. Despite my years of feeling proud of myself, I have very little to show for it. I have a new computer, a couple of portable devices (phone, chromebook, netbook, laptop etc.) and a reputation. So I'm brought back to a quote in Fight Club (if you haven't seen Fight Club, see it - but also, Narrator is the term given to Edward Norton's character. He doesn't actually have a name. It works in the book as it's all done from the first person):
Tyler: My dad never went to college, so it was real important that I go.
 Sounds familiar.
So I graduate, I call him up long distance, I say "Dad, now what?" He says, "Get a job."
Same here.
 Now I'm 25, make my yearly call again. I say Dad, "Now what?" He says, "I don't know, get married."
 I can't get married, I'm a 30 year old boy.
 We're a generation of men raised by women. I'm wondering if another woman is really the answer we need.
Ignoring the rise of feminism and damaged ego bits, the quote essentially says the same thing. I don't really know how to measure success. It's not like it's quantifiable.
"On the success scale, I'm only a 2 on material possessions, and a 6 in fulfilment"
It just doesn't work this way. Renedox and I were talking about this last night (thanks for the subject for a blog post dude) and he was saying that in regards to all of the stereotypical race orientated scales, he's a great big failure. Doctor... nope. Lawyer... nope. Business person of some description... nope. But he has a job he enjoys and he has a house that he's just brought and loves.

How many of us did tertiary education because that's the thing to do? I know my track record, even back then, is that I don't stick it out for long periods of time. 3 years for a qualification? Yeah... nah. Learning for the sake of learning... that's more me. Learning to get something done, even better. Contextual learning leads to applicable skills and an approach to problems that says even if you don't know how to do it now, it really won't take all that long to figure it out. Try getting that into a CV.

Is our success defined by a work life? Home life? General satisfaction? The opinion of the people around us? Ourselves?

I asked someone else how they thought success was measured. She claimed it was down to material possessions. She's one of those people who is part of the problem but resents the problem. i.e. What can I do? I pointed out that amongst some of my peers, i.e. Tangleball, if I said to them I have bucket loads of cash and a really nice car they would (almost) all roll their eyes. That's not success within that context. Instead, success is being able to start a project and see it through. Build something that's useful or fun. Her response was classic.... "But they're all geeks".

So I think what I can take from that is that it's a peer thing to her. It's how she perceives herself amongst her peers and how she thinks they think that defines success to her.

Am I missing something here? Is there perhaps a factor I'm not taking into account? Am I successful and by what qualification am I successful or not?

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