On Saturday I was relaxing with my girlfriend at Dolores Park in San Francisco when seemingly out of nowhere she asked “How do you know when you make it?” to which I responded “what do you mean how do you know?”. She asked me “what does it mean to have ‘made it’ for you?” This got me thinking again about a question that I come back to periodically. Every time with a different perspective.
Recently I’ve come to terms with the fact that most of the conventional goal posts that society deems as marks of success (e.g. going to a great school, have a nice house, a prestigious job, etc.) are simply false horizons IF we only seek them for their own sake. Now what do I mean by false horizons? I think that a lot of the common markers of success are just that markers. They are points along an infinite continuum that never seems to end. There will always be another checkbox to tick, another badge of honor to collect, another person to please. These markers are not a bad thing. They provide structure to our lives, help us navigate it, help us relate to others, help us build our culture and traditions, etc.
Thus, these markers are false horizons because as soon as you accomplish something by getting to the top you realize that to reach the actual horizon you have to climb an even higher mountain and that process repeats itself ad infinitum. You might have already realized why these “false horizons” are bad. I’ve realized that chasing these markers of success for the sake of it is detrimental to our long term happiness. They provide us with a short burst of excitement to which we quickly adapt and then we need more.
So how do you know?
Now going back to the original question, what does it mean to “make it” if the normal markers of success are simply “false horizons”? My current answer to this question is that to me making it means been able to do exactly what you want whenever you want it. By this I don’t mean been able to be a douchebag and think that social norms don’t apply to me. I also don’t mean taking vacations 24/7 or telling people to fck off just because you have well fck you money (that’s why it’s called that right? lol). Instead to me it means being able to work on whatever you want to work AND be able to see your those things come through and flourish. This could apply to someone who’s a painter and can see her paintings hanging in galleries across the world. It could apply to an entrepreneur that is interested in space and is able to build her successful startup in the space sector. It could apply to a government official that’s able to work on a nonprofit organization for a cause that he truly believes in. To me this is what it means to “make it.”
What about $$$?
Some might wonder were does “money” factor into the equation? Although I think that having access to capital helps gain the level of independence necessary to “make it”, I don’t think that’s a prerequisite. Furthermore, it’s been proven time and time again that beyond a certain threshold the marginal utility of income drops considerably. In other words, making more money doesn’t make you happier.
Have I made it?
Not yet. I am currently working towards it but I am still in this discovery phase where I am learning what I am interested in so that I can know what I want to focus on moving forward.
If you have any thoughts on what does it mean to “make it” please send me a note or let me know some how. Thank you for taking the time to read through this essay!