Stop trying to be successful

If I made a pragmatic list of pros and cons for my life choices since September 2017, there would probably be a lot of cons and not too many pros.

Everything I’m doing right now is a risk with a pretty small chance of material reward. A heck of a lot could go wrong.

I don’t have a day job right now. Instead, I decided to launch a blog and battle my way through the first draft of a novel.

Sure, one or both of these things could turn out to be successful. But there are countless blogs out there. What’s so special about mine? And amidst a sea of hopeful authors, I’d be blindly optimistic if I didn’t accept the possibility that my novel may never see the light of day.

While I am doing some freelance work on the side, the bulk of my working life is spent investing in projects that have absolutely no guarantee of success.

So why am I doing this?

Good question.

For me, it comes down to making choices that are based on my core values, not based on what could go right or wrong.

Ever since I was young, God has filled me with a desire to write.

As a Christian, my job is to spread the news of Christ’s love to the hurting, needy people of this world. I know there are thousands of ways to do this, but I’ve always been captivated by the power of storytelling.

Art forms can expose or comment on societal problems, explore the complexities of humanity and question the meaning of life. Art infiltrates culture, becoming a powerful vehicle for change. In turn, culture shapes generations.

If we change the face of culture to look like Jesus, we can shift the whole world’s attitude. That is my dream right there.

Truthfully, I still don’t fully know what this looks like in my life. But I’ve begun taking what steps I can, like studying journalism, embarking on my novel, and launching this blog.

The amazing part is, it actually doesn’t matter if these projects don't succeed in the ways I imagine. What matters is that my focus is on honouring Jesus in all I do. I’m willing to take these risks because I know that in Christ I need not fear anything.

However, I am also very conscious of the blessing it is to be able to lay these foundations for the future. I wouldn’t be able to do so if I hadn’t worked hard since I was fifteen so I could financially afford to take this time off.

Material gain is not worth seeking, but that doesn’t mean we can kick back and forget our responsibilities as engaged citizens. The Bible often reminds us that we are to provide for ourselves and act wisely with the resources we are given.

And to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: you should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.
— 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12

The goal is not to pursue our own desires or build great names for ourselves; it is to work quietly for what God wants. This means that success can be defined not by the outcome, but by simply doing our best with what Jesus gives us at the present time.

That completely changes what it means to be successful—and to fail.

Worst-case scenario, this blog goes nowhere and I end up pouring several years of my life into a novel that gets utterly rejected and left in a drawer to gather dust. (Or more literally, buried on an external hard-drive). I could wind up broke and disillusioned.

Not exactly a glowing victory.

But God can use any experience—good or bad—to teach me, strengthen me and draw me closer to him. His ways are always best. Today’s failures can actually turn out for even greater good in the future.

A couple years ago I wrote an article on post-secondary students who were pursuing their passions despite the risks. I can’t believe that now I’m actually doing the same thing. I’m so thankful.

However, it's important to note that while doing what you love is great, it isn’t enough to sustain you forever. Even passion wears thin when faced with problem after problem. You need more driving you than your love for something.

Think about that for a minute. What inspires you to do what you love? What are you deeply passionate about?

Remember what I said earlier about making life choices based on core values, rather than a set of pros and cons. Ask yourself what your core values are.

Do you value having your voice heard? Making a difference in your community? Do you value friendships? Do they come before or after your career? Is status important to you? Is money a priority? If so, why?

Ultimately, what do you think your purpose on earth is?

These are big questions, I know. But they are worth thinking about because the answers can help you make more meaningful decisions in the future.

Which is more important: to live a meaningful life or a successful one?

What if you could have both? I've said before that Christianity redefines what it means to be successful. If I do my best to serve Jesus with my entire life, I will consider it a success—no matter how many of my plans and projects fail along the way. 

When I look back on all the decisions I’ve made so far, I can pinpoint which ones were made based on what would benefit me the most and which were based on my core values.

In the end, it’s the latter choices that have equipped me and pushed me to pursue my faith and purpose in life more deeply. These decisions have led me to where I am right now.

And despite the many unknowns, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.