Stop And Appreciate Your Life Before The Success
“The world only exists in your eyes. You can make it as big or small as you want.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Successful people long for the days that they were nobodies, because they miss that sense of hunger and determination.
It is important to savor the journey—but no one does so, because it’s hard to predict the destination.
This week’s post is going to be fairly unique, in comparison to my previous ones. It’ll be shorter for one—comprised of only three subheadings—and the topic is not a widespread societal observation or trend, but a personal one.
Given that this is a more personalized post, the best way that I can go about introducing the topic is to set a scene. In many ways, the thoughts I’m about to express make more sense if you picture life as a movie, with the flair and dramatics included.
This is a conversation I have had almost exclusively in non-sober states—most commonly in an Uber with friends on the way to a club, or bar, on a night out.
Here is a sample of the average dialogue (mostly monologic as my drunk friends are struggling to keep up):
Me: “Do you guys ever realize these nights are numbered? These are some of the sweetest moments of our lives and we don’t even know it.”
Friend 1: “Yeah, college doesn’t last forever.”
Me: “That’s not really what I mean. We’re sitting in a car with 5 intelligent, well-connected and ambitious young people. There’s a really good chance that at least one of us becomes famous or rich.”
Friend 2: “I don’t know about that probability, but keep going.”
Me: “Sure, but I believe in us all. Let’s fast forward though to that time of success, and hopefully we’ll still be friends. We might be in a very similar scenario to the one we’re in now—in a limo on the way to an event celebrating that success, and talking about the new normal of our lives—but having forgotten what it was like to not be famous or not be successful.
Except that now that I’ve had this conversation with you today, right now, ten years down the line, right before we get out of that future car, I’ll put a hand on your shoulders and remind you.”
Friend 1: “It’s like you’re writing a script.”
Me: “Yup, it makes more sense if you think of it as scenes in a movie, scenes that come one after the other near the climax of a movie.”
Friend 3: “Why is this important?”
Me: “I never said that it’s important. It’s just cool to think that you could create bridges between your life memories. No one bothers to.”
Friend 3: “But it isn’t that hard.”
Me: “Again, I’m not saying it’s hard. It’s just overlooked.
Because no one ever really predicts when and where and how success is going to happen, or if it’s even going to happen, so why would you try to commit a moment as casual as this? But it’s these casual moments that’ll make the reward that much sweeter, both in comparison and in missing what it was like to be a nobody.
Plus, the rise to success happens quicker than you think—the work to get there may take long, but the catapult once you make it leaves people reeling.
I’ll explain further on what I believe makes this a remarkable thought in the final subsection.
Allow me to go on a slightly related tangent here (I told you this post would be weird).
Up until about a few weeks ago, I literally only ever had and expressed these thoughts in non-sober states. I would have the conversation excitedly, remind myself to write it all down when I woke up the next day, but would forget it until the next time that I was not sober. I would remember that I really wanted to think these thoughts in a sober state of mind, but could never seem to capture them and break the cycle.
This is a phenomenon known as state-dependent memory. There are certain thoughts that are only triggered when you are in specific states of mind (drunk, tired, stressed, etc.), or are presented with specific stimuli (a person, a smell, a location, etc.)
I was finally able to break out of the cycle about a month ago, when I began discussing the topic with a friend as were in line for the club. Instead of putting off the memento writing till the morning after, I took my phone out then and there to jot down notes. Sure enough, I woke up the next morning with no recollection of that specific topic—until I scrolled through my recently used apps and read the note I left to myself.
At last, I could digest my thoughts properly. It felt like finally winning a really long game of Monkey in the Middle that I did not know I was actively participating in.
To anyone else that is ambitious, and has a high degree of a self-belief, I’m happy that I’ve now planted the thought in your head. I’ll do my best now to explain why I think it is a unique thought worth having, and why most people don’t consider it.
Some of you may still not be clear on what I am even talking about from my conversational example.
Perhaps this more absurd example will make it clearer. Whenever I’m sick (and other people have told me they feel the same way), I am extremely bothered by my nose being stuffed. I realize that I never appreciate what it is like to have a clear nose, because I take it for granted as my status quo for about 98% of my life.
Because of this inconvenience every time I get sick, I now periodically take the time to appreciate having a clear nose at random moments. It doesn’t make having a stuffy nose any better when I’m sick, but I at least consciously enjoy more moments of non-sickness.
This is also similar to the success bridge I’m discussing, in the fact that most people don’t have an advance notice as to when they’re going to get sick—you normally just wake up with a stuffed nose and it’s too late.
If that example isn’t enough, I believe I have one (complete with graphics) that’ll really hammer it home.
Imagine your life as a roller coaster, with the highs and lows corresponding to the success and failures of your life.
Most people ride in their personal rollercoaster as a powerless passenger, with a heavy fog obscuring the immediate track ahead of them (a track that’ll largely remain level, with a few dips and small summits if any).
How much you control or see the track ahead of you is dependent on a variety of factors: luck, genetics, upbringing, etc. Intelligent good looking people born to wealthy parents generally have less of a fog, and they can see the track ahead gradually rising and rising with very few small dips.
For the rest of us, not born into already successful families, and with goals to be wildly successful (rich at the least, famous perhaps), if our hard work and strokes of luck pays off, will be launched up a massive summit that will melt our faces off–but we won’t know exactly when because of the fog of uncertainty, and thus we never think to enjoy the first calm stages of the rollercoaster with its dips and gradual build up.
But thanks to this thought I’ve now planted in your head, if you hopefully reach the success of your wildest dreams, you will actually recall the beginning of the rollercoaster far more than if I hadn’t planted the thought.
I essentially joined you momentarily in your rollercoaster car, pointed at the summit that we could barely make out in the fog, and took a picture of the moment.
Right before you begin your ascent and wild part of the ride, you’ll be able to remember me pointing out this part of the ride, and treasure the picture I made you take earlier.
This is what it is like for a normal person. Their ride is relatively level with a few dips and tiny summits. The fog (read lack of ambition or general uncertainty) of their lives makes it so that they have very little idea as to what lies ahead of them.
This is what it is like for someone lucky enough to be born into a wealthy family. Their ride is not too unstable, with a steady uptrend and small dips. The fog of their lives is barely present, as their careers and financial comfort is all but guaranteed.
This is the scenario I have been discussing this entire article. That’s me in the yellow, joining a normal person’s rollercoaster. They have a pretty heavy fog in their lives but because of their ambition and hard work, I can see their summit ahead. I am pointing it out to them, and telling them to appreciate the simple rollercoaster track in the present.
I’m aware I may sound crazy or even arrogant typing all this out. And to that I say, you have to be somewhat crazy and high in self belief to make a huge impact on the world anyways. I’m a dreamer and always have been, but I am also relentless in my pursuit of my goals.
My success memory bridge also reminds me of “The Game.” It’s a mental game that many people were introduced to in middle or high school. The rules are fairly simple: every time you think about The Game, you lose. I have gone several years without thinking about the game, but the second that I am reminded of it, I instantly remember every single time I have lost—all the way back to the first time I was introduced to the game.
Regardless, why do I think it is valuable to have this thought?
I’ve read a great deal of articles and books about successful people. A common theme I’ve seen is that they regret not appreciating their pre-success/celebrity life.
They crave how much simpler life was (in its own ways), and the uncertainty of not knowing if everything was going to pan out.
They also miss the hunger and drive they had, something that is hard to come by once you already make it. Usually the successful people who keep that fiery motivation are the ones who stay the most grounded and remember constantly where they came from.
Simply put, you can’t appreciate the highs fully without appreciating the lows.