It is a similar story in every case, someone starts a job, project, relationship or business with the illusion to find in that road something that represents his or her fulfillment and happiness. In some cases, that something is money, in others, being loved by someone else, for some others could be fame and personal and professional prestige. Whatever the case might be, the fact is that the road that the person takes is perceived as an opportunity, a mountain that will take effort to climb but in which there is a top with the promise of fulfillment and happiness.
I have interacted with people in “base camp” that are just beginning to gear up their maps and equipment to start climbing, full of illusions and expectations and, almost always, undermining the amount of effort and personal investment that they will be required to make in order to summit. I have interacted as well with people that are half-way through the climb, some are still up-beat, some others lost the enthusiasm long time ago but continue climbing because they are still hypnotized by the illusion of that prize that they will find at the end of the road or because they feel that it is too late to return. I have also talked with those who have summit and have chosen to stay at the top or to come down to base camp without any intention to start another climb. Finally, I have shared with those that have summit several mountains.
Lessons from the ascent? The first and perhaps deepest of all is that without exception, those that have kept the top of the mountain as expectation and only objective of the trip and during the climb have gone over themselves, their families and their happiness, never find fulfillment when they summit. They have money, but destroyed their marriages and family, they have fame but are lonely, or perhaps they have a little bit of both, but are left with the bitter taste that it was not worth the sacrifice. Kostantino Kavafis sang it brilliantly in his beautiful poem “Itaca”: happiness and fulfillment should not be placed at the top of any mountain, or at the end of any road. Happiness and fulfillment should be created at every step of the journey, of that journey that teaches us and makes us stronger, that crowns us and crucifies us. Only then, every step of the mountain has meaning, depth and compensation.
The second lesson and heresy of today is that if at any moment we have the experience of not being satisfied it is precisely because we have not quit enough. We think that returning from a mountain that is not ours, that is not gratifying and that is taking life away from us is a sign of loosing. We think that because we started a specific road with a set goal we will look as losers if we find that that was not our mountain and we choose to return. We think that returning is failing. We think that quitting is loosing.
And today, I tell you: If we are not happy now is because we have not quit enough. If we are not happy now, there is something to be quit.
I have friends that got to the top of their professions, the same they choose from the beginning of their careers, that are tied to their jobs for the level of income they receive and the life style that they feel they must maintain, but that have lost the spark from their eyes and the depth of their smiles. They are fading and don’t even know any more what passions them, they are too tied to their own success and that is what makes them so unhappy and unfulfilled. They did not quit enough.
The fact that we are able to do something and that we are good at it does not imply that it is our happiness to do it. Our happiness is in doing that for which we are so intensively passionate that we could do it without any financial compensation and still wake up happy each day to do it all over again. My invitation? Quit!. Quit to that which does not make you happy, quit to the road in which you are because you think that it is too late for going back, quit to the relationship that does not make you happy, that does not honor who you are and in which you are only for fear of looking like a failure, quit to the job that is not aligned with your values. If you are not fulfilled, if you feel that you are selling yourself for some gold coins, if they pay you for what you do but you lost your happiness a long time ago, I want to tell you that you are there, precisely because you have not quit enough.
Life is there to be discovered and the road to discovery is full of opportunities for growth and happiness, but the key to find that life in which we do what we are passionate for and what fires up is in quitting, quitting as many times as needed, until we find our own road. If you are not happy, no matter how successful you are is because you have not quit enough!.