I think a lot about my love for success stories.
And for years, I’ve wondered why I’m so in love with these stories.
I mean, there’s nothing like imagining yourself in the big battles that we know end well and the beautiful ceremonies that conclude the end of those wars. We know everything is going to be really really good in the end, and so we like to be along for the ride because we can rely on the story to finish well. We can rely on the conclusion of the story to be really good, hope-fulfilling, and fully conclusive. Because, otherwise, these people wouldn’t have written their success story books and movies.
I’ve realized I love the quick journey and the quick conclusion—10 years are crammed into 250 pages, and I get to see the happy ending I want for myself, the journey I want for myself, instantaneously. In an instant gratification culture, I can’t be shocked—but I realized that all my life, I’ve loved these stories—been obsessed with them, actually. Because 250 pages is a lot less than 10 years—in autobiographies, in fairy tales, in tales of two months or tales of two days, 6 hours of reading compared to 3 years of living gives us quite a misconception of how life really goes. There’s this longing inside of us to succeed, and our irrational ideas about how quickly we can get to the same place. Our beliefs that we’re behind, falling short, confused, and never quite where we are supposed to be, draw us into the pursuit of success stories that allow us to obsess over what we believe our potential to be. But our potential isn’t held within the 250 pages of someone else’s story. In the short, short, short part of their journey, even with the bad parts are often highlighted and focused on the self-told stories of the successful, they are still only a few hundred pages—it doesn’t do justice to the hundreds of days of turmoil that preceded the book detailing how the successful achieved their successes.
We see the final picture, even when people try to share the progress and whole picture. We only see the end if we’re not there with them in the trenches (and if we’re reading their books, we probably weren’t there in the midst of the most difficult things). Because we know what it was alongside our closest friends, for ourselves—we’ve seen the time it takes for our own progress to be made, for those around us to finally come into their successes. We struggle, we strain, we crawl, and we cry, and we take a lot of time to get to where we are, no matter where that is, we’re moving forward and making progress, and it’s not instantaneous. And then we read and watch success stories, and suddenly believe that we need to wake up as the CEO of a Fortune-500 company by tomorrow.
Nothing is ever instantaneous or immediate. We must be able to separate ourselves from the successes of others shared in a short few pages and our successes that we live through and suffer for across years and years.
Everything takes time. Our lives take time, our successes take time, progress takes time.
We are not 250 pages of a success story—we are human beings with complicated lives, with years that we’ve all walked through, ups and downs we experience over the long-term and short-term. We are filled with purpose and meaning that isn’t fulfilled in just 6 hours, 6 days, 6 weeks, or even 6 years—our lives take time, our purpose takes time. We weren’t created for instant gratification or to instantly achieve everything we want to.
Life is going to be difficult, but it is going to be Good and worthwhile. Our successes won’t be immediate, but our lives are meaningful even when we don’t see progress right now.
And whether we believe we are making progress or not, at the end of the day, if our foundation is on Jesus, our Hope is in Jesus, and our Joy is in Jesus, “whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)
That’s Good Purpose.