Success & Happiness
What does “success” mean for you?
There are infinite answers to this question, none of them are right or wrong, but there is only one answer which resonates with you.
Using your garden tools, build a structure like a tomato trestle--something that your vines will grow upwards and wrap around. Start with what makes you happy. Plant that seed. Make a list in your mind, on paper, through photos or simple imagination, of the things which make you happiest. Friends, family, animals, good humor, these are too simple. Go deeper. A seed which is buried at surface level will be washed away by the spring rain.
For example, traveling makes me happy. Why? When I travel I get to wake up every day without an alarm clock or any set agendas. I am free of routine. What’s wrong with routine? There is too much structure and expectations. So being free of structure and expectations makes you happy? Yes. What ways other than travel can you experience being without structure and expectations? When I make art for myself, when I dance alone, when I am around my friends who are like family and completely accepting of who I am in each moment.
So the answer isn’t art, traveling or friends. It is liberation and free expression that makes me truly happy.
Once I plant this seed, I begin to understand that success, for me, is a life of liberation and free expression. Entrepreneurship, a job set up and designed by me and for me, is one success. And will succeed in this job if I bring this same understanding to like-minded individuals through any type of guidance or simply inspiring through my art (hence, The Dream Alchemist).
Some fear it, some love it, some swim in it, some starve for it; money has been one of the largest controlling factors over our minds long before we were born, and it continues to dictate nearly everything we do. But this exact mindset, generated by fear, is why we have yet to receive it through our pursuits. Perhaps it is our greatest obstacle on our road to happiness.
Chances are you’ve been holding off chasing your dreams, pursuing your hobbies and living a life that makes you happy because there is a potential of failure, especially lost money. How will you support yourself, let alone a family? How will you maintain a pleasurable lifestyle?
So instead, just to be safe, maybe you paid for an education in a subject you struggled through because you weren’t fully invested due to lack of interest. This “backup plan” became your life, and now you are tied to the life you created around this uninteresting job, too busy for the things that make you truly happy, spending money on clothes you would never wear outside of work, going out with coworkers and people who don’t inspire you to step out of this box “education” has created for you. Even in your own job, maybe you feel limited to the structure set up for you, but you must continue working in order to pay off the endless debt of this education.
The irony is that you will always pay for an education, but at some point you will stop learning.
Or maybe you skipped education, because you couldn’t afford it or didn’t want to struggle to afford it later. Instead, to avoid this financial debt, you jumped straight into a job that barely satisfies you, but it keeps you afloat. Maybe you feel trapped, because there is no room for growth, no advancement or promotion because you lack the necessary certifications despite years of experience. Again, maybe you feel limited by the structure set up for you within your job, but you won’t quit and start anew, because it requires you to start, once again, at the bottom only to reach a ceiling within your new job.
At this point, you begin to wonder, “What am I even working for?” or “What am I living for?”
Only when I came to the understanding that money does not define success for me was I able to move into a place of acceptance. I have already begun my entrepreneurial life. I am taking the initial steps and, because of this, I am attracting like-minded, inspiring and inspired people into my life, leading me further along this journey with new opportunities and connections.
Money becomes something in the background. It begins trickling into my life, my soil, and soon the rain will begin pouring down, bringing with it the money necessary to keep me moving forward. I understand that money is energy and we are constantly exchanging energy, just like a smile for a smile, just like the nutrients between buried roots.
When I pay for food, I am also paying to support the dreams of the restaurant owner. I am paying the farmer who grew the vegetables. I am paying everyone in the farm-to-table process, and I am nourishing myself with good food from good people.
When I am cheated, I lose money because I was investing it in the wrong place. Or maybe the money was “un-authentically” invested into me. Whichever, that energy is gone now and I am grateful to be free of this “negative” energy. The cheater attracts it to themself and the cycle continues.
The more I spend on people who have good visions and companies with genuine missions, the more I receive for my own good values and intentions. This is the Law of Attraction, a law like gravity that applies to each of us whether or not we choose to see it.
Success, money and happiness are to be shared. Hoarding any of it will mean you no longer need it, and when you no longer need it you stop receiving it.
Trust that this cycle makes healthy soil and, like all cycles, it will never end.
Distractions and Boredom
Distractions, like weeds in our soil, are taking the most vital nutrients from us and inhibiting our growth.
A huge topic amongst psychologists and sociologists around the world and throughout time is addiction, specifically to things like drugs, sex, food, shopping, etc. And while all of this is something that should not go overlooked in our lives, it should be expanded on.
Everything can be good in moderation. Depending on how we use it, anything can be therapeutic and medicinal. But I also understand that everything can be abused, even food and sex, art and music.
These things fill distract us from the things we are not willing to face. If I cut out one, I find myself resorting to something new.
There was a point in my education when I loved coloring books, and while I was half-listening to my online lectures, I was off in a colorful wonderland of imagination and sugar skulls.
It is all about balance. How can I use all these things appropriately to focus on my advances in business and move toward my ideal success?
On my travels I met a man who confronted me about these distractions, insisting “Don’t do what you want, and do what you don’t want.” I spontaneously decided to take a break from everything--drawing, napping, journaling, reading, podcasts, social media, etc.-- and to release all my plans, anything I was currently learning about, and forced myself to meditate when I felt boredom.
Quickly, I understood how I was abusing all these things as a means of procrastination. I just didn’t want to do things on my to-do lists. As I began to reintroduce the activities that aligned with my idea of success, boredom motivated me to do what needed to be done, and I became excited for each task as I saw myself quickly advancing to create something that benefits so many creative and passionate individuals.
In this way, I cleared my soil of all the unnecessary things growing inside that were sucking up nutrients, time and space for my fruit trees to grow. Instantly I saw improvements and rapid growth, and now I can enjoy everything in moderation while being aware of how they can distract me.
Quality vs Quantity
Specifically regarding relationships, choosing meaningful and inspiring people to be around is going to nurture you in so many more ways than having more people around just to fill the space.
Many gardeners make the mistake of planting many colorful flowers in the same, small pot thinking it will give the garden some vibrancy and call in the pollinators. They don’t see the fight going on beneath the soil as each flower is starved for valuable nutrients. Suddenly, some flowers will die and the pot becomes patchy with flowers placed randomly around. It’s the same when we choose with who we spend our time and share our personal space.
Mark Manson wrote a book called “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***,” which takes the readers on a journey of introspection and re-evaluation to begin prioritizing the things that actually matter. He talks about understanding who and what is worth spending your time on, and who and what is wasting your time.
At the time I was reading this book, I was living in a new city, hanging out with a new crowd of artists. But every time I went out with them, I found myself isolated amongst a large group of people. I didn’t feel interested or motivated by these people, and I always left the party early with my friends who I do care about. I found the 1-on-1 moments with my “close friends” to be much more valuable and inspiring than going out with large groups and having to sit through boring small talk.
So I made a list of all the people I truly value and want to be in close contact with always, and I reached out to this small group. Since then, I’ve built a strong support system of friends and family, people who value me and my ideas just as much as I do theirs. I can talk to them about anything, I can be who I truly am in front of them, and I can call on them whenever I need them. In return, I show up for them as well. They nurture me and I nurture them. We want to see each other grow, so we share our nutrients: time, energy, love, support, ideas, money, etc.
Who is your support system?
Who are you wasting your nutrients on?
A cluttered garden will be overgrown with weeds and miscellaneous plants and flowers, which may be beautiful, but they are killing the crops by taking all the attention and nutrients from the soil.
Living in the modern world of capitalism and over consumption, we experience the same beautiful, yet deadly, mess of things we don’t need. Material and non-material things originally invented for us to consume have begun to consume us, our time, money and energy.
In 2015, as I was scrolling through Pinterest making overly-organized boards for my dream wardrobe and house, I stumbled across a growing trend called “minimalism.” The concept is that there are very few necessities needed to survive, but in today’s society, wants quickly become needs, and money is something people will kill over or sell their souls for. People are realizing more and more that the glamorous idea “money buys happiness” doesn’t always prove itself to be true. Minimalism, on the other hand, is a life filled with primarily essentials, making time to focus on the priceless things life has to offer.
While I am not suggesting that everyone become homeless anarchists, it is very important to analyze what aspects of your life, physically and mentally, are buried in the clutter built up over the last years.
Aside from cleaning out your closet of the things you never wear and quitting your job/education that makes you miserable, take a shovel to past events and beliefs which have rooted so deeply into your mind. Old habits of procrastination and chasing temporary happiness, toxic beliefs that shape your relationship with money and success, unsupportive friends who you only hang around for the sake of not being alone, boring hobbies that you picked up just so you wouldn’t be bored, unorganized hopes and dreams, and any other blockage that you can see is wasting your money, time and/or energy are no longer welcome in your garden.
Release them. Plant them somewhere else if you wish, preferably in the past. Throw them in the compost so the nutrients they have absorbed from you in this time can later nourish your garden.