Success but on whose terms? What about personal brands and character?

There is so much pressure on people these days to be successful.  And I do not think we are encouraged to stop and think what success actually means for each of us and for society in general.  Many of us seem to be on a treadmill.  Go to school, get good grades and get into a good university and then get a good job.  Then get a mortgage on a house in a good area and possibly buy an investment property.  By this stage we are supposed to be successful and thus be happy.

But I’m not sure that this is the correct equation for achieving a happy and successful life.  I see the pattern so often. Many of my friends are on this treadmill.  Some of get to their thirties or forties and realise that they have not achieved as much as they had hoped to.  Perhaps their job isn’t good enough, perhaps they didn’t go to a good enough university. In any case they start to feel defeated and not good enough. They begin the slide down into a gently defeated middle age where they think that because they did not do good enough their life will not really amount to much now.

It seems to me that this is no way to live. Constantly checking yourself out against an ill-defined standard of good. What the hell does good in these contexts mean anyway?  Because the standard of goodness is not defined – and good goes so easily with better and best – there is always a feeling that the good thing might be surpassed by a better thing.

There is little room in this pattern for joy, inspiration, non-traditional approaches, or unexpected roads to fulfilment.

Coupled with this treadmill is the relatively new notion of ‘personal branding’.  Chris Penn wrote a nice piece on personal branding recently which is worth a read (HT: @maverickwoman for the link).

When the idea of a personal brand is tied to the treadmill of a good career it puts even more pressure on people to measure up to these ill-defined standards.

When we look back to history many of the people we most admire did not follow the generally accepted standards of the day with regards to good education, jobs, etc.

It’s time for us all to think and feel and reason about what is success.  How does that link to character (not personal brand)? What kind of person do we want to be?  And what kind of actions do we need to undertake based on that? By thinking about these things we can determine what to do to achieve success on our own terms and not upon the ill-defined terms that seem to be generally accepted in our society.