Yale Law Professor Amy Chua who wrote Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother
put forth in a recent New York Times
article that (despite diversity in population) strikingly successful groups in America today share three traits that propel success. They are 1) a superiority complex, i.e., a deep-seated belief in their exceptionality, 2) insecurity, i.e. a feeling that you or what you've done is not good enough, and 3) impulse control. She goes on to call this a "Triple Package of Traits."
As a writer, I experience insecurity (number 2 in the above paragraph) far too often. I also subscribe to number 3 (the one on impulse control) because I like feel-good posts and comments that make me want to live in the moment and encourage me to continue on my path. But if I were wise like Professor Chua says I should be, I'd forgo the impulses to live in the now and inculcate habits of discipline. I can hear her say, "Self-publishing a book instead of putting it through the rigors of agent submission and time tested publishing shows you lack discipline. You give into your impulses because it is the easy path, and that is why you're a loser. That is why I will never call you successful. You will always be a failure in my eyes." And as for number one...the feeling of superiority, or a deep-seated belief that you are exceptional...it's just not me.
And you know, it's not that I disagree with Professor Chua on what constitutes "success" and what constitutes "failure." Rather, it's that I think that when you "do the math," we all understand that for some people to do much better than others, many many others must give up their own share of the "dream," whether it be writing, or a job promotion, or some kind of prestige and admiration. The reason for this is that implicit in the American dream is a chance for others to do well, too. It is not about winning at all costs, it is about doing as well as you can without hurting or impinging on the dreams of others.
And so I address my insecurities this month with a quote from the great American poet, Walt Whitman, because I have no choice but to redefine what success means for me as I will never see eye-to-eye with the likes of Professor Chua. From Leaves of Grass
Walt Whitman states: "This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.”
If I can accomplish even half of what Walt Whitman is saying, then I should (by all measure of my life) be at least proud of the life I lived and take comfort in what small successes I've attained both in my career and in my writing by the time it's over. And that, as they say, is that; what say you?
This post is part of the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Details can be found HERE.