Whose life am I living? I’m sure you ask yourself that kind of question from time to time. What am I really good at? What is the purpose of my work? These are not new questions. Sooner or later, we all seek answers to them.
Up to three or four decades ago, most people struggled with such questions once or twice in their lives. When they chose their line of work, or when they resolved to break from the expectations of their family.
Today, fundamental questions of identity and purpose are no longer a once or twice-in-a-lifetime occurrence. Many of us face them again and again. Not only when we are struggling, but, paradoxically, when we are succeeding.
That’s because the better you do, the broader the range of opportunities you have. You no longer just get to move up, you get to move around. You are exposed to different opinions, worldviews, and lifestyles. You become keener to look for work that grants you more than sustenance and recognition. Work that allows you to feed your passions, express yourself and serve a larger cause.
Today’s careers are no longer ladders. They are more like works of art.
In this context, what does it mean to succeed? What does it take to thrive?
Goya’s The Third of May 1808 shows a Napoleonic firing squad killing terrified Spanish resistance fighters. It is gritty, and unheroic, and almost a cliche. But here’s the thing: no one had done this before. Before Goya, all the painting about war celebrated its parades and glory and honor. They looked like they were done by someone who had never seen a fistfight, let alone a battlefield. Goya put an end to the noble practice of whitewashing war with one painting.