The 3 dark lights to a successful journey!
“The real test is not whether you avoid this failure because you won’t. It’s whether you let it harden or shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it; whether you choose to persevere.”
What is one lesson you have learned today?
What loss are you mourning today?
What life are you chasing today?
“Yes, but you are there. We are here. Don’t tell us that.” Yet, that is the sentence I hear each time I exchange with some people in Dakar, Senegal. Be it, friends or family, I feel the burden of their projections about success in their eyes.
I understand their feelings. I have been there. I used to idolize and envy all my cousins, aunts, uncles, or other family members who would visit us in Dakar, Senegal. To my eyes, they were like angels descending on the hell of a third-world country and coming from France or the United States of America.
As I see them returning home, bearing some gifts for us, I define coming to France as a sign of success.
In 2000, the airplane took off. 6 hours later, I landed in Paris, France. “Here I am, not in Paris, No. Here I am in Paradise land. I see myself glowing like the angels that were before my eyes.”
In 2006, I was ready to descend from my heaven to what I thought was hell. But instead, I saved enough money to buy some gifts for my family and some of my friends. By the time the aircraft landed in Dakar, Senegal, I was transformed.
I have been through many adventures in France for the past six years. Yet it was not the success I was sold or at least as I could imagine. Living in France as an international student made me realize that this is not heaven, far from that. I can see the mirage of living in France as a Black person from a former colony, the struggle to renew my visa, and all the low-paid jobs done mainly by Black or Brown people.
“It must be a dream job to work for a big company like Airbus! That is my dream job. That is my heaven!” So I shared it with some Airbus employees who delivered courses to our engineering school in Toulouse, France. Then in 2008, I started working for Airbus, OK kind of.
I was a subcontractor for a subsidiary of Airbus, CIMPA, at that time. If you imagine Airbus as a building, I was now in. Yes, I was “in” the building, but at ground level minus two. Then shortly, with luck, and some hard work, I entered the building by the main gate. I swapped my red badge with the Blue One!
As the years went by, that beautiful necklace of flowers turned into a heavy golden chain around my neck. People will only see the gold in the chain as I walk by. And all I can see is the weight on my shoulders. “But at least it is a golden chain!” So I am trying to tell myself as I walk on the ground floor of that golden cage.
I am sharing those two stories to illustrate the illusion of what I thought success was to me: a final destination to reach. I was fooling myself, inhaling the bullshit smoke I was contributing to creating. I was too weak and maybe too naive to ask myself the tricky question:
What is real success in life?
The underlining search is to rethink my definition of success. If success is to be in France, to work for Airbus, to have a house with a garden in the sleeping cities around Toulouse, a wife, and two kids, then I am successful according to all those metrics. Yet I do not feel that I have arrived at Success land because the truth is that I have been wrong all along.
I was fooled into thinking that success is a destination. The truth is that the following elements for me define success:
The more I look in the rearview mirror, the more I see that success is not a destination. Instead, if I look closely, my successes are just inflection points that define my trajectory in life. They are bulbs that light when I get close enough to the crossroads of my life.
LESSONS — When I arrived in France, I learned it is not heaven or hell. It is just a place with different people who have their worldviews. At Airbus, there is no magic wand to build an aircraft. We are no wizards in the literal sense. All we do is go beyond our differences to build a safe and reliable aircraft. I see through the veil of my own biases.
Throughout my life, I have had lessons of humility, forgiveness, caring, and paying it forward. However, sometimes I needed more time to be ready to welcome the lessons life taught me through experiences and people.
Looking back, many of my successes are lessons I learned and used to overcome some challenges in life.
LOSSES — When living in Dakar, Senegal, and coming to France, I left behind my family, my friends, and the comfort of a worldview built for me. When I came to France, I used that lost space to create my new self, my worldview. I have met new friends for life.
When Airbus hired me, I might have lost my magic about working in such a company. Instead, I learned to make my place at Airbus, even if it has taken me twice the time as my other colleagues. I have learned not to always look at the next floor. Because of discussions with some on the rooftop, I have known to silence my FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out).
I am connecting with the higher spirit of contributing to a future where we can travel differently with the spirit of Airbus pioneers floating above me.
I have lost my ego. I have replaced it with my eco-responsible way of not always wanting more in any shape or form.
My losses created a space for me to build my successes.
LIFE — I have always wanted to become what other people, my parents, my siblings, and others thought I would be. I have been chasing a life that was defined for me. It was both comfortable and crushing. Comfortable because I did not have to search for it. Crushing because as I was running for it, I was running away from my true self.
Time and time, life has taught me that patience is power. Life has put presence as an essential gift for me right now.
I was chasing expenses to fill my bucket. Life showed me that, in the end, only experiences matter. I have been blessed with a healthy body with some diseases to remind me of my mortality. I have been blessed with a student mind until I die. I have done nothing to deserve all my unfair advantages.
Life has taught me one important lesson: I must not expect things to happen as I wish. Instead, I must accept them to happen as they should and be ok with that.
Acknowledging my circle of impact, my sphere of influence, and the rest of the universe is my most important lesson to redefine my successes.
Those are the lights that turn on in my dark journey. I still need to get close enough to activate them. I am not my failures. I am the lessons I learned from them. I have not lost what I thought was meant to me. I was just redirected to what I was destined for. I am not the life that others have defined for me. I am my impact, my influence, and my acceptance of life. I am all of those things simultaneously.
Life’s not about winning or losing. Life is about existing with the meaning of our creation. That mindset is the ultimate success: harnessing the power of lessons, losses, and life’s entropy.
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You can read my previous article on Answer these 6 six questions while telling your story, and you will have a story worth sharing. (Friendly link)
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