What Are We Really Talking About With “Successful Careers?”

Jim Ellis 

And so we are to cover the topic of “successful careers.” It’s part of the Mentor Discover Inspire Mission Statement.

Well, the first thing we have to do is define our terms.

Career – what the hell is that? And when did the concept first appear in our lexicon?

Did it originate in times past, during the age of hunters and gatherers, when we either went out harvesting our crops or searched out our kill for the feast? Did we have such conversations:

  • Zarcon – How is your career going?
  • Bendor – Killed me two elk and one sabertooth.
  • Zarcon – No, I was talking about your career.
  • Bendor – What?

Did it originate during the times that we, as nomads, roamed from place to place, not really having to land a job in each neighboring town, but simply ravaging it before moving on? Did it originate when towns sprung up and we had to fulfill separate tasks to keep a township in order?

  • John: Who knows how to put this horseshoe on?
  • Robert: I do.
  • John: OK, we will call you “Robert the Blacksmith.”
  • Robert: Where did you get that title?
  • John: I don’t know; I’m making shit up. Next – who wants to be mayor?
  • Robert: What’s a mayor?
  • John: The person who can make up the most shit.
We will call you “Robert the Blacksmith.”

No, back in the day, there weren’t “careers.” I think it was called “living,” which may have led to the now famous “making a living.” From “living” to “making a living” we’ve either really evolved or really devolved.

With the industrial age and then technology age, man has found his way into the job market, selling his wares and sometimes selling his soul.

Either way, the society has created a need for a man to find his niche, a talent, a gift, a way to fit into his world, presenting his own brand of bullshit. All to make a living.

He has had to find a way to make money. Oh yeah, that came along too. Money. In the beginning, it may have been beads to be traded. Or pelts. Or even gold, valued metals placed into some form of coin.

Next step? Yup – modern man pushing a grocery cart at a Vons, using a credit card to reflect the money (backed by nothing) they have stored away, earned from a job that represents something valuable they can DO in the world. Whew – we’ve come a long way.

And now – “Success.”

What is that? Webster, whoever the hell he is, sees it this way:

  • “The accomplishment of an aim or purpose.”
  • “The fact of getting or achieving wealth respect or fame.
  • “The correct or desired result of an attempt.”
  • “Someone or something that is successful: a person or thing that succeeds.”

For me, success comes when I have found some level of enjoyment, some peace of mind, some valuable expression in the world.

And how does that relate to success within a career? It shows up this way:

  • I am happy that I did my job – completely, thoroughly and with integrity.
  • I did so in a way that uplifted others and myself, creating some form of positive impact.
  • My creative thought matched the what was created on the outside. My inner values, principles and voice matched what took place in the outer world.
  • My muse’s voice was the voice heard by others in the world. The printed word was directed by a higher inspiration.
  • And the money? Oh yes I’ll take the money – knowing that it did serve another person in some way, shape or form. I got paid for it. Not pelts, not beads.
  • The money I received would be in enough abundance to cover:  bills, fun, travel, recreation … with enough left over for generosity. 

This to me would be success, in a “career” I could call my own.

James Anthony Ellis is an award-winning playwright, journalist and filmmaker, who is the author of eight books, including the men-focused “The Honor Book” available HERE.

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