When I found your ad and checked your website I felt this strange comforting feeling just imagining a kind old bear (no offense if you aren't actually old) giving out advice to those who ask. That's why I'm writing this letter despite not knowing what to ask about. Well, it's more like I have so many things I could ask about that I don't know which! I guess I could ask about how to deal with failure or the lack of success. Sometimes I'll try new things or put all my effort into trying to achieve something and I just can't. I've heard plenty of people say that if you never quit and work hard you can achieve anything. It's hard to believe when the fruits of your labor show little to no results. So how do I keep myself from being disheartened?
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Depending on your definition of "old," I'm 55, so I guess that if I'm not already there, I am getting close. I am currently working on my dissertation for my Ph.D. in Grumpy Old Bear. Soon, I will have to defend my paper in front of a committee of old codgers to get their approval to join their ranks. Wish me luck.
As for your goals and achievements, you are still young and growing as a person. Now is the time for you to explore your options and interests. Failures and dead-ends will be the norm, not the exception. Don't put so much pressure on yourself to succeed right out of the gate. You should do what you're doing right now: try a lot of different things and see what clicks with you.
Meanwhile, remember that everything you "fail" at, or, at least, don't get "measurable success" at is a learning experience. After you have an experience where you fail to achieve something or a project goes awry, take a step back and evaluate what happened, what you did wrong (and also anything you did right but just didn't pay off), and how you might fix it in the future.
The important thing is to find something you love to do, and then, whether or not you "succeed" at it is a matter of your point of view. Say your big dream is to be an artist, but you never end up making much money at it, so you find "regular" work and paint or draw on the side. If you love your art, and you love doing it, then you are still a success. Would you call Van Gogh a failure as an artist? He never sold a single painting when he was alive, but he loved painting. He was a success. If you are an artist but people say your art is bad even though you have tried and tried, but you love doing it, then you are a success because you have found something that makes you happy.
Heck, take this column. I don't make any money at it. It doesn't win any prizes. But I love doing it, so it is a success to me. Another even more profound example for me is my late husband, Jim. Toward the end of his career, he was laid off as a news director and spent his last years with me trying to succeed as an entertainment podcaster. You know what happened? He never made a dime, but he adored what he was doing. He loved recording interviews and editing soundtracks until the day he died. And he was loved. Oh, how he was loved! Now, THAT was a successful life.
Living life is not about achievement or money or recognition or fame. It's about being alive and experiencing life. Hey, that reminds me, that's kind of the message of Disney's recent movie Soul, which is about a piano teacher who wants to make it big but dies before doing so. He learns the very lesson I'm telling you right now: LIVE. This life is for you. Take time to enjoy the sensations, the friendships, the fun of it all, and stop worrying about being a success. If things happen for you and you become rich and famous, then great; if they don't but you had a nice ride, that's just as great.
Step back and ask yourself this: "What am I trying to achieve?" If it is fame or fortune, then reevaluate what you are doing. It isn't about "success" as defined by our capitalistic society. It's about loving life and finding something you love to do.
I hope that helps.
Big Bear Hugs,
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