Does Money Equal Success?

Zero Kazama (Advisory Councillor) offers his insights into how there is more to life than just making money.

Zero Kazama, Advisory Councillor, adds his take on how to define success.

Zero Kazama

Zero Kazama

A couple years ago, I woke up in my car behind a laundromat in Humboldt county. I’ve had been living out of it for several weeks and I couldn’t be happier. No job or home, half-starved and sleep deprived, yet I had found what I was looking for. This felt like the success in life I never attained in Los Angeles, no matter how many jobs I booked or where I lived. The sun started to peak over the redwood covered mountains and as the rays cut through the heavy mist, I thought of where to get coffee.  I could probably head to the local co-op, get my day started there and then go hang out with elk on the beach...and that’s exactly what I did.

Learning from Hardship

After a stroll with a wild elk herd I saw a sign that said “FREE BBQ” outside of a large RV campground. I looked out of curiosity. Surely, this was only for people paying for a spot there? Nope! Huge free BBQ with limitless burgers and what looked like 50 gallons of soup! After eating enough for two days, I took my time doing laundry at a stream. Have you ever done laundry by hand completely surrounded by what looks like Disney's Pocahontas come to life? It felt like I won the lottery and I had probably $20 left to my name.

From Nightmare to Experience

I’m incredibly blessed to have gone through these experiences that came from situations that were a complete nightmare at the time. The hardest learning curve in my entire life came from having a string of disasters that got me kicked out of my flat and left me a blissfully homeless social reject. Clearly, there was a notion of success given to me that was not working with my intrinsic values. After coming to my socially acceptable senses right before my financial accounts would become permanently closed, I had to rebuild my life from scratch while battling suicidal depression for two years.

Defining Your Success

There was no continuation of the life I once had, and the feeling of freedom and bliss were instantly destroyed by confinement and regret. Successful living depends entirely on what you and I label as “successful”, and that may or not even feel like the right way of living because you don’t value what you’re doing. When you become aware that you’re not feeling good at your successful life, you’ve successfully become self-aware that your values are not in line with your success, so the success is not anymore a “success”. Yet that is a successful moment.

Overcome Yourself

Winning. Success. A moment of success is a moment of winning. You win at life when you overcome yourself. A continual state of success is therefore a state of perpetual self-improvement. This line of thinking caused me to break down the term ‘self-realized’. The first definition that pops up via Google search is “fulfillment of one’s own potential” and that comes naturally from being self-real. Self-realization is simply realizing yourself as ‘you’. Taking it down further into the essentials, we’re left with the Greek-Zen, two-word Athenian temple motto, “know thyself”. How did the people that followed this two word philosophy, as a spiritual practice and religion, view value and success? The answers to those fundamental self-questions are your own and can change. You can write them down every year – a list of what you value, or you can ask what exactly is going on in a heated moment and have a session of brutal yet loving self-honesty on what sort of mental gymnastics are keeping you from getting to your own truth. The intensity of which you want success in this manner is at your speed and capacity for self-dialogue and growth.

Adding Your Own Value

Life is meaningful to the degree to what we give it meaning. After thinking of the values of life in terms of what they mean to me personally, my whole definition of life changed. Has this become a scramble of metacognition and vocabulary? What does success mean when you don’t know the definition of value? Can I revise to make my life feel more successful? There’s an infinite amount of self-questions you can come up with if you follow this string of logic. I treat success and value as totally individual things and to each their own.

We live in an age that would have been the dreams of past explorers. I’ve found that most people yearn for the feelings of expansion and adventure in their loves, inside and out. Become your own navigator by learning to read your inner compass. I hope something in here stirs beautiful waves of success in your life, whatever that may mean.