I gave a talk this morning and when I do that I often lose track of where I’m supposed to be going. I start off with one thing to say and I end up saying something different. And even if I’m managing to stick to the topic, other thoughts crowd in as I’m speaking and they clamour for attention. While I was happily losing my way this morning, speaking to about 60 or 70 people in a lovely old ramshackle barn, something occurred to me, but there was no space in my train of thought to say it. You know? So I’m going to say it here, as a sort of post script:
If your aspiration is to be successful, to be wealthy or famous or the Number One Hombre in your line of work, it will all be down to luck. Luck and happenstance and how the world spins. It will be in some small measure down to you, yes, but even the genius and even the money-maker and even the most charismatic person in the modern world can be knocked off kilter by fate, by a turn of events, a flood or a famine or a pandemic, a financial depression, an illness, or by some tiny personal glitch like procrastination, or nervousness, or poor time management.
Failing to be a success is not failure. It’s life.
That’s why I wrote: If your aspiration is to be successful, to be wealthy or famous or the Number One Hombre in your line of work, it will all be down to luck. Luck and happenstance and how the world spins.
If, however, your aspiration is to be content and to find a deep inner joy, then whatever is going on around you is incidental. St Paul said it best;
‘…….I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.’ Phil 4:11-13
This morning, as I spoke to all those entrepreneurs and creatives, I could sense the ambition and the potential in that lovely old building. They were cool people, confident, chatty, warm and interesting. Every single one of them was there because he or she wanted to think and to learn and to grow, and together they created an atmosphere of community and mutual good-will. Lovely stuff. But I should have said to them, don’t aim for success. Aim for joy.
And don’t aim for happiness either because you can wake up happy on a sunny morning and ten minutes later you’ll be fed up because it’s raining. You can be happy because the person you love is coming home, but if they decide to run the other way your happiness will vanish. Happiness is fleeting and fickle. So don’t aspire to success or happiness. Aspire to inner joy.
Joy can be found when there’s no money in the bank. It can be found when there’s only just enough money in the bank. And it can be found when there are millions in the bank. Joy is for everyone, regardless of the world’s view of success, whether you’re up on the mountain top or sitting in base camp, you can still have joy. If you believe that money will buy things that will make you happy, of course you’re right. You are! Buying that gleaming new car will make you happy. But as soon as someone nicks it or smashes into it or it starts to rust, you’ll be less than happy and it will become just one more slight disappointment.
So, what is joy? For me, it’s the knowledge that God is good, and that love is all. Not soppy sentimental love, all hearts and roses and soft words, but real love. Love that picks up the homeless and welcomes the weary and feeds the hungry. Joy is the sort of love that listens when others speak. Joy is the sort of love that laughs too loud and says daft things meaning well. Joy enables us walk around our neighbour and see them for who they are, warts and all, and love them anyway. Joy accepts friendship and turns away from judgment. Joy is a strange and wonderful gift, and we can decide to have it. We can. Joy is a gift. Joy makes life rich and deep and true and precious. You know, if you want to be Number One at something, that means that you want everyone else to be lesser than. And wanting people to be ‘lesser than’ is not a good approach to life. It creates a sort of jealous, watchful undertow to your mental well being. It saps you of joy.
Bob Dylan sang a song ‘Gotta Serve Somebody’ and here’s a snatch of the lyrics:
You may be an ambassador to England or France
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
I know people who have everything. Everything. Houses, cars, boats, money, land, investments, pensions…. and they end up serving all these things. They maintain the buildings, pay to have the cars serviced, pay local taxes on their mostly empty houses (how many rooms does one person need?), worry about the boat, pay for mooring, keep up to date on this and that, check their shares daily, fret when they dip, do a fist-pump when they rise. Their success is wearing them out, killing them, giving them ‘sugar spikes’ of happiness but robbing them of joy. We all have to serve somebody and when we serve our possessions, our success, we have a cruel master.
If we consciously and deliberately aim for Joy, will we always feel it? Will we always be aware of it? Bursting with sunshine and peace? Nope. Sometimes we will be glum and disappointed or exasperated or plain ‘orrible (ask anyone who knows me!) . But if joy is what we value most, if that’s our hope, there will always be joy within us, waiting, because it’s not a click and demand thing, it’s a way of life, a lifestyle choice. We choose it and we learn it.
This morning I should have said to all these young bright successful people ‘Don’t aim for success. Aim for joy. It will outlast the fame and money and the busyness. It will remain when everything else has gone. It will fill your soul as you look back on life, and as you look forward to eternity.’
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
8 thoughts on “PS I shoulda said…..”
Your talk yesterday was really inspirational Lucy, thank you, I took so much away from it!
Not least: “You have a life. You MUST use that life!”
I hadn’t realised there was a play in me – but the way you described the process yesterday really resonated. Particularly in how our experiences inform our story .. I was born here but emigrated to South Africa in the seventies .. hearing your story made me realise mine. Thank you 😊
All the best
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Hey Cathryn, I’m so glad you got something from it. I wandered away from what I was intending to say… there’s something about that event that’s just free-range. Luce x
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I loved the talk, the word
‘warmth’ was resonating around the campfire all evening when we chatted after the event. And you’re right with ‘joy’ being the aim of the game, success is only when we find joy in the living. Do good, be kind. Thank you, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing you this weekend and at the Do Lectures last year and both times you’ve filled up the energy bank inside. Take care, go well 🙂
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Hi Tash, thank you for the encouraging words! Maybe I’ll see you next year? If so, please come up and say ‘hello’
Thanks, Lucy. I am glad you spoke on Saturday – I was one of the not-so-young people there, and at times wondered why I’d had a nudge to go – and your PS is the missing piece, re-kindling the spark of why… 🌿
I’m glad you were there – it was great mix of young and not-so, and it really does feel like a magical event in an enchanted place.
And we even had good weather!
Brill Luce, as ever.
Thank you, moody bugger, who e’er you be. I do appreciate the encouragement. We send these words out into space and it’s cheering when someone on a distant mountain top yodels a reply.