Dreaming big or being happy: How neither is enough to be successful

I was raised by a single mother in Jersey City. We lived in affordable housing but I never realized that affordable housing could be used to define or support a negative stereotype of how the people in affordable housing live, behave, grow and learn or participate in the community on a larger scale. My mom worked hard, we had a nice apartment, my brother and I had great friends and we went to a decent school. Actually, my brother and I went to Catholic school from Pre-K to 12th grade. So most would think we had a great education. Part of me thought public school was better and offered better classes. I didn’t even know going to a Catholic school was expensive. I just figured the only difference between Catholic and public school was that my mom had to buy uniforms. Considering that my grandmother paid for uniforms, I figured that’s why everyone else didn’t go to my school – because they didn’t have the help to pay for the uniforms. I didn’t know until much later that there was a monthly tuition and that my mother ruined her credit by paying for our education with credit cards. Maybe that’s why I never took school seriously. I didn’t value the importance and didn’t know it was a sacrifice. College was never really a goal and school never helped to guide me to have a plan for my future. In fact, whenever I would ask my mother what I should do when I grow up, she would say “Do whatever makes you happy. As long as you enjoy what you’re doing, you’ll be a success.” Um…nope!

Do whatever makes me happy? What if I’m happy to stay home and get up at my own time, watch soap operas, go dancing, not pass calculus but instead take nothing but art classes, and get my nails done. That’s what made me happy in my late teens and early 20s. So working the cash register at Sears was perfectly satisfactory by that standard. Was I success then? Um…nope! While I was working at Sears in the afternoon and going out dancing at night, my other friends went to college during the day to get a degree to become successful. They only worked at Sears to pay for school books and gas for their cars. So, while everyone else I knew was getting ready to graduate college, I finally decided to go to college. Because having a degree in something would eventually garner success, right? Um…nope! Especially considering I have two degrees in separate somethings that I thought I was passionate about.

College definitely did not make me happy because I had to take classes I had absolutely no interest in and therefore barely passed those uninteresting classes. I had to get a less flexible job so I could make more money so that I wouldn’t go into super huge debt because no one told me that college, even a state college, was uber expensive. I mean, college would help me get a successful career to pay back the loans, right? Um…nope!

So doing what made me happy did not make me successful. Going to college certainly did not make me successful. I currently work in a field that I worked in before college so honestly the debt and “college education” served absolutely no purpose. And now, I hear people say that “dreaming big” and “following your passion”  and “channeling your inner child” will bring you success. How does that work? I day dream all the time and I’m not successful. So I’m inclined to believe that dreaming big and following your passion will not bring success. Well, not on their own. Clearly there is something missing. Something so subtle, basic and obvious to everyone else except me. So what will make me successful? I’ll tell you what will…

  • Tangible goals
  • Objectives
  • Consistency/Focus
  • Research
  • Desire to keep learning
  • Routine/Structure
  • Discipline
  • Tenacity
  • Patience

I truly believe that the items listed above will bring me success. All of these things that were never taught to me in school – not in grammar school, not in college – and definitely not in the general workforce. So, ultimately, Catholic school was not better and college was not better either. Because neither was established to foster success. They were designed for us to simply pass and move along. They prepared me for the J.O.B. type of living (Just Over Broke) not a successful career. Sure, some would argue that education and critical thinking are essential tools for a successful career. Yes, they are two of those essential tools. But without a goal and objectives, without structure and a plan, who cares if I know how to calculate the velocity of a ball that has been dropped from 60 feet? What good is the knowledge if I can’t use it? And if I can’t use it, won’t I forget it anyway?

So the first thing for me to do now is to find a tangible goal and do some research. I’m still working on finding that goal so, in the meantime, I’m reading and going to seminars and listening podcasts of those who are successful in different ways. Reading books like The Compound Effect and going to HR seminars that discuss how to set goals, listening to the sermons of Bishop T.D. Jakes and watching shows like Super Soul Sunday on OWN are my building blocks and new classes. It’s great to dream big, but I still need to research what I will need to learn or accomplish in order to get me closer to reaching that dream and even surpassing that dream.  And most importantly, I have to be consistent. I can’t give up. I can change paths and perhaps even change goals and dreams slightly as I learn more, but I have to be consistent. Something I never did before and was never taught to do. No one spelled it out for me before. Hopefully now, my goals will help. Now I need to just follow through. Here’s to a transformative 2016!


2 thoughts on “Dreaming big or being happy: How neither is enough to be successful

  1. Hi there, I truly love this post and your ‘about’ section. Growing up in Brooklyn, affordable housing was called “The Projects”. I didn’t live there, and there was definitely a stigma for those who did. Meanwhile, our Mitchell Lama co-ops were not much better.

    I have 2 fairly useless, degrees, I’ m also responsible for an 87 yr old aunt with dementia, and I partially relate to your situation. I’m married with no kids, and probably have a decade or two over you so I’m not looking for new job options. But I thought you might try taking a look at some of the free or $10 courses on Udemy. You can pick up some technical skills you might find you’re good at. No passion necessary.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi! Thank you for your message and for the information on Udemy. I’ve never heard of it before but I just checked out the site. Seems interesting. Thank you so much for sharing!


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