I’m Not Chasing Success Anymore

"The years of searching ...have finally brought me back to myself... There is nowhere I need to be. There is no one I have to become." ~Chi Phan

“Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.”
Pema Chodron

When I made a decision to leave my corporate life, I didn’t think of becoming an entrepreneur. I simply wanted to know what I would like to do with this one precious life. I did not want the confines of a job, ticking boxes defined by others which meant little to me.

I wasn’t motivated by money. I was not hungry for a big success. I just wanted a quiet, fulfilling life being myself. In my heart, therefore, I wasn’t really an entrepreneur, but what else could I be? If I wanted to make money without a job, I had no other choice. I had to make it as an entrepreneur. Or so I thought.

And so I threw myself into more initiatives than I can recount. One after another, I kept creating and testing. I was undeterred by failures. In my mind, they were lessons, each bringing me a little closer to that one thing which could work. Every experienced entrepreneur has talked of hanging in there through the tough start, so I learned to focus on sowing seeds of opportunities and letting them sprout in their own times.

I patiently waited for “the break” that every successful entrepreneur eventually found. A long-term project, a sudden influx of clients, a lucky collaboration or a genius idea—any of these could be just one conversation away. I had no certainty, but I also had no lack of positive energy.

Then came those scary months when I ran out of ideas. After ticking off the last item on my to-do list, I found myself in the void of “what now.” I am a natural problem solver. Not knowing what to do was unfamiliar and deeply uncomfortable. My problem, however, was elusive, which made devising a solution virtually impossible. I only knew that I could no longer tell myself to stay positive and work harder.

It wasn’t that I was disheartened by not seeing the results of my efforts. Neither was I fed up with work itself. The whole business-building side of things just did not feel right. In all those months of busyness, I had not allowed this niggling feeling the time and space to surface.

How could it be that I was following my heart, and yet I lost the will to continue? How could it be that I was happy day to day, and yet I was unsatisfied with my life as a whole?

I tried to stay with the uncertainty, but it wasn’t easy. Fear kicked in. I was anxious for a way out. How long could I realistically wait? If I jumped out too quickly, I would regret my rushed decision. If I stayed too long, I would get to the point of crisis.

At some point in those months of creative exhaustion, it dawned on me that the success I was trying to attain was probably not right for me after all. I wanted to be free, but I was no freer. Instead of progress along a corporate career, I was chasing progress in the entrepreneurial world. To succeed in objectively measurable ways, I still had to play by others’ rules.

What if I could never succeed at anything?

I believe that every human being on Earth is meant for something. And indeed there were a lot of things that I could do with ease and joy. But maybe, just maybe, succeeding wasn’t one of those…

I was struck by how okay I was with that notion. More than okay, I was actually happy. Without the need to succeed at anything, I could be truly free.

While I did not have the lifestyle I wished for, my daily life was exactly what I wanted. I was happy following different curiosity threads and contributing to causes close to my heart. I did not have many clients, but I thoroughly enjoyed my work with them. So what if this was not “success”? I would happily sustain this life forever!

Around this time, I listened to a talk about Mahatma Gandhi. Looking beyond what he is most known for, Gandhi actually did not set out to achieve independence for India. He made time to listen to the voice within and lived his inner truth—his life was his message.

Singer-songwriter Jewel echoed the same theme at a conference I attended. She said that she wanted to die with music being only a very small part of her life. Her sole purpose on Earth was being a whole human. Music was just her expression.

I realized then that what felt wrong with my entrepreneurial journey up to that point was the pursuit of something external to myself.

The onslaught of marketing and teaching out there made me feel that I had to focus on measurable objectives in building a business. Even those who advocated generating profits from passion made business the end goal rather than the means. While that may ring true for many, it didn’t for me.

I wanted to focus on the life that wanted to be lived from within me. My work would be whatever came out in my actions and pursuits.

I now do some part-time corporate work and thoroughly enjoy it. I am probably less of an entrepreneur as a result, but that doesn’t bother me in the least. I make time to write when I feel called to do so, but I’m not following any guidelines to become a published author. I continue to give a bit of myself to various initiatives for social change, knowing that without a focus I probably won’t be remembered for anything.

When I feel no desire for action, I stay with the quietness within. I no longer wait for my moment of glory. My life and work is here and now.

The years of searching and frantically trying have finally brought me back to myself and my truth. There is nowhere I need to be. There is no one I have to become.

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Chi Phan

Bio: Chi is a strategic communication consultant who helps business owners engage their audience through clarity and authenticity. She is also active in various initiatives that support change-makers working to bring about a kinder and more conscious world.

6 Responses

  1. Carrie says:

    This is so inspiring! (and I love the picture, too)
    You’ve given me a lot of food for thought as it relates to my own journey.
    Thank you!!

  2. Devorah says:

    I think it’s important that we define what “success” means to us. It might not be anyone else’s definition. But if we’re clear about what we want, as opposed to what others want or what others think that we should want, we’re more likely to get it.

    • Chi says:

      Hi Devorah,

      I understand what you mean.

      Where I am is a detachment from the concept of success and the concept of getting anywhere other than here altogether.

      I am not setting goals as I trust at any given point my inner truth will know where I want to/ should be.


  3. I love how unconventional, but deeply wise, your story is, Chi. I have been through a similar journey with the idea of “playing small”. Focusing on trying to succeed is exhausting. I’d rather focus on doing my best and being true to myself. I don’t think that’ll end up in any kind of stereotypical version of success, but it’ll be my own. And that’s enough.

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