The Success Trap

Twice over the last two weeks, the topic of job satisfaction has come up with friends. In both instances, said friends were feeling unhappy with their jobs. Unchallenged, as it were; unsuccessful, as though they should be doing more.

In both cases, I reminded them that having a job like that frees up a lot of time and energy for things that are, ultimately, more important – like healing, self-improvement, and service.

I realized a while ago that material success is an ego trap. A shiny distraction from what really matters.

I fell into that trap early in my life. I felt like I needed to make something of myself, career-wise, in order to matter. To be seen as successful by others. To prove to myself that I’d made something of myself (by placing that designation in the hands of what other people thought of me and my life choices). I set out to become successful at everything I did. And boy, did I do things.

I sat as Vice President of the Board for a nonprofit and helped scale it from a small organization taking in $75k a year in donations to half a million.

I started three businesses – one doing branding, graphic and web design; another one doing all of that, as well as messaging, SEO, UX/UI design, lead generation, content creation, scaling operations, pitching and funding, revenue models, and whatever the fuck else a client wanted to throw at me. I grew that second business 400% from year one to year two. (The third was simply adding readings to this little blog here.)

I gave keynote presentations on digital storytelling. Workshops on social media. Sat as a panelist on digital marketing. I gave seminars on digital fundraising for nonprofits. I did photo shoots with professional athletes and wrote and directed PSA commercials.

I ran a fashion tech startup and launched a national brand ambassador program. I coached young entrepreneurs on how to communicate their vision and make their business goals a reality.

I was…am…a very accomplished human by earth standards. I came. I saw. I did (really cool) shit. And at the age of 33, I realized that none of it mattered.

When I moved here, I knew I didn’t care what kind of job I had. I have a journalism degree from the top school in the country and had spent four years running my own consulting business and I was fully prepared to wait tables because I just didn’t care anymore about anything except finding myself and being of service to others.

I didn’t want to help people make more money or plan their next exit strategy. I wanted to help people feel comfortable in their own skin. I wasn’t going to make the world a better place by [insert stupid tech company mission here], because you can’t change something from the outside in. The way for me to make the greatest impact was by helping people heal from the inside out – and there’s no dollar signs attached to that because it’s invaluable.

Xo, 

 

1 Comment

  1. Ash – your presence is so needed in the city, where there is so much “chasing it” going on. Sure, there are some who enjoy chasing it, but for most I think it feels like a gerbil wheel that never stops. Like you said, it’s so easy to get caught up in. Your friends get a boat, you need a boat; your co-workers get a summer place, you need a summer place; etc. I like knowing you’re in the mix, sharing your wisdom and being such a grounded, bad-ass, amazing woman just by being!

    Reply

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