Don’t aim at success – the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. ~ Viktor Frankl
Growing up, my Dad essentially left me to sort things out on my own while he was working. He gave me two solid pieces of advice; the third I inferred from the few historical events of his childhood I was privy to:
- The secret to a happy marriage? In the words of Gandhi: Passive resistance*.
- Whatever you end up doing in life (chosen or unchosen) always try and do your best and don’t be a jerk.
- Avoid Russian prisons.
Many of us will find some value in the second piece of advice. It provides an avenue for everyone, regardless of our station or lot in life, to find happiness in a vocation – chosen/unchosen/desire/undesired. Indeed, I often meet young adults who cannot find their “passion” and who therefore continually move from job to job. I always suggest they try to stick it out for awhile so they can experience the happiness that comes with getting better at what you do.
In one of my first blog articles written a few years back I mentioned I used to work for Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico. For a number of reasons, Sandia was a great place to work and even today there are aspects of working there that I miss; especially, some of the fantastic people.
During that time, while on a trip to visit my father’s family in Germany, I was invited to a party where I ran into one of my father’s childhood friends who proceeded to lay into me pretty heavily in front of a large group of his (and my father’s) friends. He expressed his displeasure that I was neglecting my obligations to the family business and suggested I was the reason my father had to work seven days a week and couldn’t retire.
Drowning in guilt, when I returned to Albuquerque I called my dad and asked him if he wanted my help. So it was, a few months later, I found myself trying to finish up my dissertation work while (barely) guiding Evaero through the post 9-11 aerospace downturn.
Like many family businesses, there are times when it felt like a Russian prison. But, by sticking it out, trying to do my best, and not being a jerk, happiness eventually ensued. Perhaps more importantly, by keeping Evaero running, I gave my father the opportunity to do other things which made my own career diversion serve a larger purpose.
For a number of years the answer to that was yes. Today though, partly for the reason noted above, I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given, the people I’ve met and worked with, and especially for the fact that the experience didn’t tear my family apart.
So that you don’t have any regrets, consider catching Cold War Kids when they come through your town in support of their brand new album LA Divine. Until then, here they are with the first song off the album, “Love is Mystical.”
Love is mystical
Love will break the chains
You might feel invincible
You might be afraid
Light in darkness will show you the way
Give you the power to believe again
Until next week.
*I realize marriage counselors would probably disagree with my father’s advice on this matter, but I’d respond with this evidence: Last year we celebrated my parents’ 50 year wedding anniversary.
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