Are you Ready to Follow Your gut and Persevere?
Another day, another listicle telling us why we’re not as successful as the person who wrote it.
Such listicles are the low-hanging fruit of the online writing world, a quick way to recycle truisms to make bank. Stick the word “money” in any headline and you’ve got a hit because greed sells. And the greedier one is, the more popular one gets in this capitalistic monsterhood that passes for culture in the US.
To immigrants like me who come from a drastically different background, such copy represents the apex of alienation.
Where I come from and am currently sitting, barefaced greed won’t win you friends, much less allies or admiration. When French advertising mogul and soundbite king Jacques Séguéla mentioned that anyone who didn’t own a Rolex watch by age 50 was a loser, public opinion chewed him up. Braggarts aren’t popular in France or in the European Union because we don’t measure human worth in monetary terms.
Here, we admire those who contribute tangible value to society through vision, heart, and perseverance.
For example, singer Slimane used to play gigs in front of as little as four people before he became a household name. Olivier Bourdeaut won over a whole country and at least 13 others with a book written in seven weeks after spending two years on a first novel all publishers rejected. Emmanuel Macron created a political movement from scratch and went on to become France’s youngest ever president.
In a country whose motto is liberty, equality, and fraternity, the above are some of the people we look up to, support, and aspire to emulate. Meanwhile, those following in the footsteps of Séguéla know not to publicize the fact lest their social circle should shun them.
France isn’t alone in this mindset.
Every other European country I’ve lived in has similar values, which is why we were able to come together and create the European Union in the first place. Be it as a political or human achievement, the EU is nothing short of wondrous, something anyone my age has grown up with. Transnational mobility, i.e. the ability to live, study, and work in any of the 28 member states is our birthright. And when it comes to money, it’s self-evident to us the richer countries should never leave those of lesser means behind.
How else will all member states achieve equality otherwise?
Not so in America where equality in every possible sense of the term is seen as an affront to the status quo by those who benefit from keeping others down. Although philanthropy is big, many who help others aren’t shy about letting everyone know, as if basic human decency were some kind of superpower. Gloating about how they give to others is often a publicity stunt, a way to garner more praise and plaudits for being generous.
And yet, generosity has nothing to do with money.
Instead, it’s an attitude that rests on the knowledge we are duty-bound to assist others because we humans are at our best when we empower one another. Although I worship no god and my family doesn’t either, this was an intrinsic part of my upbringing. Every year, my mother and I would go through my toys and clothes and donate some still in good condition; accumulating stuff was anathema to us. Sharing, my parents taught me, was part of what it meant to be a human in the world. To this day, when I see a homeless person on the street in Paris, Lisbon, Amsterdam, or Seattle, I see a fellow human who has fallen on hard times and could easily be me.
I’ve been homeless, I’ve been hungry, and it could happen again. Luckily, I was never on the street because those who love me offered me places to stay whenever I wasn’t traveling for work. Even acquaintances helped because this is what we do here; you needn’t share a deep bond to lend a fellow human a hand if you can. Not having anywhere to call home is universally distressing, as is being unable to feed yourself.
With this in mind, success is a very personal concept and yours to define as you see fit. And more than likely, the definition will change throughout your life.
Follow your gut and persevere.
Anyone telling you anything else is lying so you buy whatever it is they’re selling, from courses to software via retreats. As if “access” could make you successful by osmosis! In an individualistic society, encouragement is a hot commodity, another consumer good and charging for it is yet another income stream.
Is there a more unethical way to earn a living than by preying on human vulnerability?
It’s easy to exploit those who are in a position of lack by tapping into universal insecurities and promising them success if only they hand over what little cash they have.
The formula is as old as time: Make people feel inadequate, chide them a little, then offer them a solution against a price. Or take a want and turn it into an essential need.
Alas, the internet has empowered con artists and grifters of all stripes and there will always be easy marks, especially in the US where money rules.
To follow your gut, all you need is vision and perseverance. No matter how much self-confidence you might have, it’s bound to let you down so the ability to keep going regardless is key. This means holding yourself accountable for everything you do and making a habit out of pushing through discomfort.
Embracing rather than avoiding failure is the only way to learn; we can’t outsource success, we have to build it chunk by chunk over time. And unless we’re prepared to commit to whatever it is that makes our heart beat faster, success will forever remain elusive.
However, you might be surprised by what happens when you’re dedicated, stubborn, and enthusiastic about what you do. Our true colors always show; sooner or later, the value you offer will resonate with people, be it only the one person.
When you frame success in such pragmatic terms, it’s easily achievable.
If you’re following your own path, you’re already more successful than you probably know so keep going, keep learning, keep iterating, keep growing and success will eventually find you, whatever your definition of it is.
I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor living out of a suitcase in transit between North America and Europe. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.