Further to ‘becoming > being‘, I want to talk about why confirming trajectory and optimising speed should be more important focal points for us, than merely arriving at specific destinations.
Actually becoming successful
Both confirming trajectory and optimising speed are things that are fare more within our control and influence than ‘destination arrival’. Generally speaking, if we’re doing things right, they both occur not only before destination arrival, but begin at the very early stages of a journey. Desired trajectory is usually confirmed before we even leave but is then also repetitively checked throughout the journey. Speed optimisation also begins as soon as we leave. Because they’re both much more ‘accessible’, the rewards we begin receiving from ‘getting it right’ can begin just as early in our journey.
The varying destinations we mark and move toward throughout life will come and go, each with their own unique directions and requirements, however the need to confirm trajectory and optimise speed are skills that are going to be present with every single journey. Mastering these therefore, is going to provide a more reliable indicator of our ‘potential for additional/further journeys’ than tracking destinations already arrived at. Remember we want to focus on making sure what’s ‘inside’ is in tip-top shape which in this case means the quality of the vehicle instruments is going to be more meaningful and helpful than the destination history.
Those who pursue success in gratifying ways prioritise ‘looking successful’ over actually ‘being successful’, thinking the latter follows the former. “Fake it ’til you make it”. When overly focussed on ‘looking the part’, it’s possible for us to get hung up ensuring our GPS history, Instagram travel feed or our list of rural bumper stickers is as long and vast as others, but doing so can end up taking away required focus on one’s own current trajectory and optimal speed. It can cause accidents and encourage sloppy awareness and vehicle maintenance.
Those who pursue success in edifying ways however, prioritise ‘becoming more’ over ‘acquiring more’, ‘being the part’ over merely ‘looking the part’. They do the leg work, run the whole required process, acquiring the experience necessary to genuinely become successful, even if some or even all of the fame/glory/wealth doesn’t come yet or at all.
A key differentiating indicator is to take the resources away from the edifyingly successful person and they should theoretically be able to build themselves back up faster and even better than before. Having taken the long road, they have all the experience necessary to make the trek once more and do so with the benefit of all their history’s wisdom. In contrast, take the resources from the gratifyingly successful person, and they’ll likely fear the work required to rebuild so much that they will seriously struggle to get past fighting over what they once had. We should aim to obtain the know-how, that we can become ‘repeatable successes’.
We’d be wise to think of being successful as on ongoing state of being, hence I often use the term ‘becoming more’ instead of ‘being’. The ideal is more like an optimal speed than it is a destination. When we rest, it’s for for the sake of becoming more capable of working, as opposed to working for the sake of getting more rest. However it’s common place in our culture to think about it the other way around. It appears that as a society we’ve come to hate work, or at least think of it with some degree of distain.
This might be because so many of us have jobs we struggle to find meaning and value in, but if that’s a primary driving factor it serves as greatest evidence to my argument in our society looking too much from the outside in instead of the inside out. When we pursue edification we’re aiming to make the most of whatever we have, yet while we pursue gratification we often are waiting for what we have to change before we think we can start making the most of it. A gratifyingly successful individual relies too heavily on the merits of past and future accomplishments… “if I have been successful…” or “if I will be successful”… “then I basically am now as well”… which isn’t really the case, and certainly not the most helpful way to look at it.
Too many see success in the acquisition of resources at the end of the work. Edifying perspective is utilising and appreciating the value in the growth available during the working process itself. It’s an appreciation of the principle that work is a universal, timeless principle. It’s not something best used to get us to ‘a state of rest’, it’s something used to get us to ‘a state of progress’. Faster and more effective progress is tied to harder and smarter work, while ‘harder and smarter rest’ will likely not be the primary contributing factor.
Some degree of progress is certainly available during times of rest. Sometimes our greatest ideas or accomplishments come after we take a break from the mainstream work we perform. When we try to get a higher perspective on things and try to see the wood for the trees. The reality however, is that even though we may leave the workplace, and we may not be physically involved in the normal processes of work, our mind is often still ‘on the case’. We’ve simply taken a fresh approach to thinking about the work. In short, the work has continued, supplemented by adequate rest.
Happiness doesn’t only come from being at the end of the journey, or where one doesn’t work anymore. That time might be fun and relieving and even a very comfortable end of an era, but the happiness in that moment will fade, as all things do. However a more reliable, refreshing, and even ‘living’ happiness can be found in ongoing, growing and enduring work. Not just any work. Crappy work that you struggle to value, have deep disinterest in or that you feel steals from more important priorities in your life, although capable of still providing edification is much less likely to be as rewarding.
The most edifying work will very likely involve helping both you and others to develop both personally and collectively. That’s why we shouldn’t just work ‘to work’, but that we work ‘to edify’. Do you expect that once you reach financial independence that you’ll be happier never working anymore? Or perhaps do you expect simply to start looking for ‘more rewarding’ work? Finding work that allows you a greater degree of joy, progressing even further, doing more good, achieving even more and perhaps most importantly going about it in a much more voluntary way.
Returning to the principles of function and excess and how ‘more edifying good’ is accomplishable through the expenditure of excess over function, due to the greater freedom available with its expenditure: He who no longer has to work but chooses to do so, is heavily freed from biased intentions. He has the ability to purify his reasoning for doing good for others. The work he then pursues will carry with it the same, purer intent and all involved benefit from it.
Edifying happiness doesn’t come from not working, it comes from working, especially when the work involves things that are challenging, interesting and new. We would therefore be wise to look for work that increases our capabilities, our capacity to do and be good. It would seem that ‘learning to love work itself’ is a primary key factor of success. Since experiencing edification largely occurs in the process of doing work, learning to love work itself is going to lead to increased and deeper engagement in that which edifies. Kind of like learning to love baking when you’re already in love with baked goods. If we want to be the best we can be, we must appreciate that doing so will require work, and likely a lot of work a lot of the time, maybe even all work all the time, stopping only for the breaks needed to be able to continue. Breaks in work will of course create breaks in progress.
Never give up on progress. We need to become individuals who are constantly improving and progressing. That won’t be accomplished if we give up. It’s important to understand that just because we struggle to do something, even things that were once easy to us, we can still maintain ‘progression’ through that same method of ‘being willing to work’. By always maintaining an honest willingness to work, we can find edification in all walks of life. It can be as simple as finding a problem or opportunity, identifying the available resources one has to spend and then prioritising their expenditure in the most meaningful way.
If we stay true to even this super simple model, it doesn’t matter if we’re constantly doing less than we used to do (eg. getting older, or becoming incapacitated due to illness or injury) all that matters is that we don’t give up on that pursuit of honest progress. Progress is always relative to where we are, so it doesn’t matter where we start or drift to or even if we end up restarting entirely. The moment we give up on being willing to work from where we are, we’ve surrendered honest progress and will end up resorting to old ways of gratification and dependency upon external resources to then only periodically experience edification third-hand, through those around us.
Edifying success is not a destination as much as it should be thought of as something like “optimal speed“. “Top speed” or “top gear” might be appropriate in normal circumstances but life is often abnormal and with hills, valleys and hazards along the way so that top speed is a term relative to what else is going on around you. It requires us to constantly make sure we’re going the right way and that our pace is going to allow us to get there effectively. It’s about how one is travelling, more than where has one travelled. It’s a state of progress, and perhaps most importantly a state of exponential progress, meaning if we’re doing it right, the rate in which we’re improving should be increasing along with the improvements themselves. This can be very hard to see in the early stages but if we can maintain consistency it doesn’t usually take too long to notice how far we’ve come.
Because it’s more about ‘how’ than ‘where’, experiencing edifying success is something that’s available to everybody independent of their potentially unique circumstances. It might seem like an obvious point at this stage, but when the focus is ‘how’ what we’re really talking about is merely ‘making the most of what you have’, and with that understanding whatever we have at the time is comparatively inconsequential. Anybody at all, using whatever their current resources are, can experience edifying success. You’ll know it each time you identify an increase in your capabilities, and you’ll feel it as you identify the increase in truth and function one has within them, enabling their increased capacity to do and therefore be, good.
So what’s required to get to optimal speed? I was again return to the concept of general and specific hierarchies. There’s going to be unique skills required to optimise speed in one’s unique circumstances, however there will always remain ‘common traits’, or ‘general skills’ that help most people in most circumstances and are a great place to start looking if somebody is trying to find the truths that they need to implement to get to their optimal speed based on their current circumstances. These general skills are going to be commonly found attributes and virtues, including the ones that have been emphasised for so long that they just feel like clichés: Patience, understanding, vision, determination, consistency, grit, endurance. These are things that don’t just help us to learn but they help us to master learning itself. Prioritising the implementation, habitualisation and mastering of virtues like these, is how to reach and sustain ‘optimal speed’. Initially, it’s less about the skillset that helps us reach optimal speed in our unique circumstances and more about the skillset and helps us reach optimal speed in most circumstances, for most people, most of the time.
Edifying success is becoming a successful person, which is an optimal speed, not a destination: ever increasingly more successful. An ongoing state that can be reached and once reached, maintained or decreased. Like all momentum, maintaining it is critical and much more efficient than stopping and starting. Now even though it’s more efficient to maintain than to restart, we need to keep in mind that being ‘at speed’ means we’re also traversing changing terrain. If we want to maintain optimal speed, we’ll need to be flexible, adaptable, changeable, evolvable. We need to be able to change and and improve upon ‘who we are’, our while being, core to shell.
Trajectory trumps all
As previous mentioned: Where you ‘were’ or ‘will be’ does NOT compensate where you ‘are’ nor where you’re ‘headed’ (i.e. ‘what you’re becoming’). Just because you were great or terrible, doesn’t mean you still are. Just because you think you’re going to be great or terrible, even if it’s true, doesn’t mean you are yet. There needs to be a reality check on both the present and current trajectory, and such is best measured by expenditure. Where does your current expenditure indicate you’re headed? What does it say about what you’re likely to become? Remember this isn’t just money, it’s how you spend your time, your priorities, your opportunities, your whole life.
Remembering that edification is about increasing function and capabilities: that’s always going to be relative to the effective utilisation of your current circumstances and resources. Improvement is largely synonymous with ‘headed in the right direction’ and to know if you are or not, in most cases, requires a knowledge of where you are now. To then remain at optimal speed, once you get going, requires constant measuring and remeasuring of both available resources and their expenditure. Just like checking the fuel take to ensure we’ve got what we’ll need to get there, and that we’re not overheating the car or drifting off the road along the way.
If we’re not constantly at that optimal speed, or at least repetitively returning to it, there is a problem. If we’re not still working on increasing capacity, we’ve fallen, we’re drifting, and the most likely scenario is we’re moving further from our desired ends and the drift is going to cost us more than we’ve prepared to pay. Just because we have invested a lot into something previously, if we’re not still investing in it now, such clearly demonstrates a change in our values and therefore, trajectory. We no longer value what we did previously, over our other/now higher priorities. That in and of itself isn’t necessarily a good or a bad thing, it is what it is. Own it. Be honest about it. It only becomes a problem when somebody is trying to convince us (or we ourselves) that a particular thing is the #1 priority when our expenditure clearly evidences otherwise.
We need to be headed in the right direction, we need to be as clear as we possibly can be with what our expenditure indicates we’re becoming. If discontent with that, we need to fix it immediately before headed any further down a wrong road. Once content, then we get working on optimal speed.