My first encounter with self-help coincided with my going to the States and what can be called a cultural clash. The culture of success and happiness the American way: good, better, best. The title in the news in my school’s paper could have gone like this: French schoolgirl mugged during an exchange trip to America. So the story began:
On one fateful day, I entered the local drugstore in Needham, Massachusetts. I was 14 years old, the school trip was drawing to an end and it was time to buy some souvenirs. Among all the tacky memorabilia I could afford, I bought a mug with a message that was going to mesmerize me for the next 10 years to come:
Success is doing what you love;
Success is loving what you do;
Success is being true to yourself.
As a fairly new comer to the English language, I understood that Success was going to:
- Do what I love, i.e. bring me whatever I wished like Aladdin’s genie of the lamp;
- Love what I do, i.e. bring me the love and approval I was desperately craving;
- Be true to me, i.e, be faithful, loyal to me.
What seemed harmless self-help paraphernalia was somehow going to shape the impressionable adolescent that I was. Indeed, for the next decade or so, I was going to be under the spell of my faulty interpretation of the success definition printed on the mug and read all the self-help lit. I could lay my hands on. At 17, impatient to leave my mark on the world, I dropped out of school to enter the family wholesale business, the royal path to success, I thought. The Folly of Youth. However, the more successful I became, the more a sell-out I felt. I was an excellent salesperson and , later, manager, but I felt that there was more to life than increasing ” the family’s capital”, an expression my father was using whenever a creative decision I was about to make, threatened the business to collapse and ruin us all.
Success is not doing what you love
When three years later, my father decided to go on another business venture abroad, I took over the business in France. I thought, then, that Biz success was going to bring me the time and money to finance my true passions: writing, painting and personal development, but soon enough I got disenchanted. After a hard day’s work, so caught up with my chasing the rabbit, I was too tired to follow through on my passions. I definitely did not do what I loved.
Success does not love what you do
Did I get the approval and recognition I was craving? Nope. I thought my parents were going to recognize my great business talents and my, well… self-sacrifice, since I was the only one of 5 who was going to follow in their footsteps. Instead, they took it for granted. After all, I wasn’t going to graduate; I might as well work and be good at business. It runs in the family, anyways.
Success is not being true to you
When more than 60% of my clientele got wiped out by tribal wars in Africa, I was on a 14 hours day’s work trying to restructure the company and find new markets. I began to battle with serious stress which developed into potentially crippling health conditions I still harbor the scars. While de-structuring, I began to feel the pangs of Success betrayal.