Be Easy On Yourself

I have been fortunate enough to have worked alongside some very smart and kind people in all the companies that I’ve been part of. And in all those people, I always noticed a common element. You instantaneously have an appreciation for how wise they are from the way they talk about random things, the way they think. It almost makes me wonder, especially as a computer nerd, what did they do to get a thought process like that?

And to clarify, I’m not just talking about software engineers. I’m talking about managers; product, marketing and people from other domains. So this isn’t a bias for people good with code. They might not have been the best in their respective domains, but it didn’t seem to matter. They were all super pleasant to be around and working with them was always a joy.

Initially, that was weird for me. How can someone be so good at what they do and not be super famous? Why are they not millionaires or working in, I don’t know, Google or something? I remember thinking about all these things, but not knowing the reason. Now, after gaining some maturity and finding a lot of time to just pause and ponder over such questions, I think I have some possible answers.

Ever since I was a kid, I was fed this idea of what a successful person is supposed to be like. He’s rich, he’s famous, he’s smart. He can afford whatever he wants, has a big house, lives life without any struggles and works for a large corporation as an executive. If you want to be called successful in life, you ought to become like him. I’d imagine many of the children brought up in cultures and societal structures like mine had the same idea of what success looks like.

So when I got out of this environment and met people who felt like they were doing well in their lives on the whole; are happy doing what they do, are influencing and making a difference in the lives of people around them and so on, my trained mind had internal conflicts. On one hand, it felt like they’re pretty successful and happy with what they do. On the other, my definition of a successful person didn’t seem to match them. What was happening?

It was simple. Just as we sometimes accept a very specific definition of health, intellectual or creativity, and regard anything that deviates from this definition as disabled, dummy or mundane, I had this one definition of successful and everything other than that was just a compromise at best.

But I was massively wrong. It had to be wrong all along. We’re all different, and trying to fit everyone under one umbrella was doomed to be a failed generalization. There are as many ways of being successful as there are humans and ways to be alive, and each one of us can define it for ourselves what that means for us. From drawing doodles to collecting rocks, only you can judge if you’re successful. This isn’t to undervalue those of us who work super hard and are actually successful in my old, partial definition of success. This is to broaden the definition, my definition, to accommodate all the variations we see in life around us and appreciate it all.

The world isn’t a level playing field. Just like in video games, the game of life can be played on easy, medium or difficult setting. Unlike in the video games, you don’t get to choose it. Some people are playing the same game as you at a very different difficulty level, and there’s not much that can be done about it. The least we can do, is not make it even crazier.

In closing

I’m very glad about this shift in my perspective over the past half a year or so. This serves multiple purposes.

  • One, I am more open to exploring and appreciating the ideas of fun, weekends, vacations and in general living a good life from the perspectives of people who’ve been brought up very differently than I was.
  • Two, I don’t lock myself in this tunnel-visioned world view that just because someone is not a senior-something by the time they reach a particular age, they’re not ambitious, talented, smart or whatever.
  • Three, I get to experience a lot of new, wonderful aspects of life that I never knew existed; laying in the grass and feeling warm sunlight on your skin, running a marathon, skateboarding, gifting, making people smile and laugh, and being grateful for little things in life.
  • Four, I detach the concept of a person’s value from the money they’re making. It changes a whole lot, and makes me look at people around myself in a completely new light. A light which emphasizes on someone’s skills, values and thoughts over their paychecks and job titles.
  • And five, it makes me more empathetic in my daily life while talking to someone who’s not like me.

To close this essay, I’d like to come back to the title of this post. Take it a little easy, little slowly. You’re in a car driving on a never ending road that meets the horizon in the distance. Keep an eye out for where you’re heading, but make sure you don’t miss the scenes on the sides, for those are real. What lies at the horizon might not.

Cheers, and thank you for reading!