Success on paper, Failure in real life
- Success on paper is not a success.
- Everybody is playing their own game.
- Figure out what game you are playing.
- The game you are playing defines your version of success.
- I redefined my success by changing my game.
On paper, I am a success…
- A child of hard-working immigrants
- Passed several AP Tests
- Co-captain of my high school basketball team
- President of my fraternity at a Big Ten school
- Got a job graduating INTO the 2008 financial crisis
- Co-founded a consulting company
- Bought a residential cleaning company
- Invested in multiple income properties
- Moved to Irvine (America’s safest city. 20 minutes from Disneyland. 15 minutes from world-class beaches)
- Just celebrated ten years of marriage. Our two boys are everything we could’ve asked for and so much more.
What more could one possibly want?
Why did the above not make me happy?
I always assumed that there was this destination I was climbing towards. Once I reached this destination, I thought that it would be a platform of some sort where I could lie down, relax, and enjoy this so-called success. In reality, I’m hanging on a never-ending set of monkey bars: if I let go, even for a second, the free-fall begins. That’s how most of us feel. Like we constantly are clinging to things, always having to feed the beast.
“We have two lives, and the second begins when we realize we only have one.” — Confucious.
I spent my first life according to the expectations of society, my parents, and my religion. I had two primary pursuits (aka games): Asset-building and Gamifying religion. Everything else was secondary and only viewed through the lenses of those two games. This is unsustainable and will certainly lead to a midlife crisis.
I needed to redefine success. To achieve that, I had to define a new game. A game where happiness was inevitable, not something I’d luck into. That starts with searching to redefine what happiness is. I was fortunate to come across this beautiful gem:
“Happiness to me is mainly not suffering, not desiring, not thinking too much about the future or the past, really embracing the present moment and the reality of what is, and the way it is.” — Naval Ravikant.
This resonates with me. In my next game, success is finding a state of Happiness. To achieve that, I’ll need to shed desires, shed suffering, stop worrying about the future, stop regretting the past, and embrace the present moment at all times.
Old Success: Collection of Assets, High Score in Sikhism
New Success: Being happy in the present moment.
How could I find moments where I’m not suffering, not desiring, not worried about the future, and not regretting the past?
Living in the present had no value in the old game. My old self always worried about the future because assets need to be collected; points need to be scored.
How do I know where I’m supposed to be at any given moment?
I realized I had no idea what actually made me happy. Truly happy, not Instagram happy.
Finding sustainable Happiness
To be happy in the present, I literally wrote down the identities I want for myself: Good Spouse, Good Parent, Athlete, Good Businessman, etc. As long as my current activity is working towards at least one of those identities, I’m happy.
Today, I simply ask if I am where I want to be at this given moment in time.
For example, I’m ecstatic when I practice yoga because, for that hour, I am exactly where I want to be: on the mat struggling with Utkatasana (Chair-pose). Out of all the places I could be in the universe, at this moment, I want to be on that mat. I don’t care about the past that got me here. I don’t think about what will happen after this session ends. Any problem that exists now will likely still exist in an hour. I’m not suffering. I’m not desiring. I’m happy. That’s a real-life success.
Notice how it’s not success according to the old game I was playing. That’s 100% OK. I opted out of that game and embraced Happiness.
I don’t regret that it took me 34 years to figure out exactly who I am; I’m grateful that I found myself before another 34 years passed and even more thankful to share my findings with my children, spouse, and the others.