Sometimes I fear that I am neglecting my work. I feel guilty that I am not moving towards my long term goals. Likewise, I accumulate lots of anxiety when thinking that my career will stagnate because of how little I can focus on my craft. However, it was until recently that I realized what I have been putting all my efforts into. For the first time in years, I feel proud that I am spending the time and attention that my family deserves. I am convinced they deserve the best of me, and after living abroad for seven years, it doesn’t hurt to compensate for the years I was absent.
I remember a TED interview where Elon Musk mentioned that it is equally as meaningful to change the lives of a few dramatically as much as to change by a millimeter the lives of millions. Today I am a strong promoter that someone who embodies the figure of success strives to bring value to both the outer circle and the inner circle.
I used to believe that it is to admire uniquely those who excel in their fields. Those who innovate and disrupt their industries. Those who gain reputation and admiration by their knowledge and skill. Nonetheless, many of the most famous, rich, and skillful people neglect those closest to them to keep their commitment to the outer circle: their audience, fans, or customers.
It just doesn’t seem morally right to allocate all of your resources towards creating value in some form or another to the outer layer at the expense of neglecting those who love you. The fact is that to create value and leave a legacy; you don’t have to look very far away. Sometimes those next to you would benefit greatly from a bit of your time and your attention. Maybe the best achievement of the day could be calling your grandparents, arranging a lunch with your parents, sending a message to a childhood friend you haven’t talked to in a while.
The US has identified itself with a country that promotes individualistic aims. For example, you would often hear perspectives such as “Follow your dream,” “Do not allow others to become obstacles to pursue what you want,” “Live accordingly to your own priorities and not the priorities of others”. However, in other cultures, there is a collective responsibility ingrained in the community’s values system. It isn’t as simple as making decisions for what’s better for you because if you haven’t noticed it… your choices also affect those around you.
It isn’t only that you have to pay it forward to your family for everything you have done for you, but it is also an attempt to keep your support network healthy. Strangers might deeply care about your work, but that doesn’t mean they will care about you. And when life gets hard, you will need support and love. Furthermore, nurturing a couple of relationships for an extended time could be in itself the best self-development pathway. You will become aware of deeper layers of the personality that others will barely grasp. It is worth mentioning that an extraordinary life could mean that just a few people would attend your funeral. Still, if there were a hundred funerals, they wouldn’t miss a single one of them.
Indeed, the advice to some people who lie on the other side of the spectrum is entirely the opposite. The advice is simple: improve your sensibility towards strangers. If you are incredibly generous only towards those that have provided you something in return, then you might want to realize that little acts of kindness for strangers can make you happier! A small dose of service pushes the world a centimeter towards the light. It becomes evident that strangers care. A small gift can be the pivot point to improve someone’s day. Curiously, it creates tension. Most of the people will be shocked because strangers usually don’t do it. They know you didn’t have to do it but you still did it without expecting anything back.
It might be impossible to reach the perfect distribution of your resources between the outer and inner layers (that is, without even counting the time you have to allocate towards yourself). Life is messy, and unfortunately, thriving exclusively in one direction might also indicate that your failing towards the other direction. However, I firmly believe that embracing the tension between this pair of opposites can allow you to experience life’s wholeness without regrets. At least paying attention to this tension will give you a higher probability of not getting too far away from either extreme.
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