"The fundamental delusion: There is something out there that will make me happy and fulfilled forever." — Naval Ravikant
Last summer, I visited the city of my childhood, Vaasa, a small town on the western coast of Finland, to attend my uncle's funeral. During that trip, I met up with an old friend who I'd last seen almost 20 years ago. We got to talk about what's been going on in our lives. At some point, he told me, "You've been really successful. Don't you understand how successful you've been?"
I've never thought about success as a factor that matters. Or should it matter? What does it mean? And if success in life should matter internally, how could I ever admit to myself that what I've achieved is something to feel good about?
After spending some time in the past months thinking about what achievements mean and how to reflect on what I've already achieved, I came up with five ways to look at success and achievements to feel happy about what I've accomplished.
The hidden core beliefs that are running the show
My maternal grandfather was a hardcore entrepreneur. He started his mirror and glass grinding business in the 1940s, setting up shop in the family garage on the outskirts of Vaasa.
Operations began with the production of small hand and room mirrors sold in shops and stores nationwide. From this, the company grew into a booming glass business, which by the 1980s, employed up to 30 people, with services including an extensive range of all glass work: building glazing, aluminum glazing, works of art, and, in particular, glazing for the furniture and kitchen industries, such as shop glass doors and glass shelves.
My mom worked in the family business office when I was growing up. I was day-cared for by my maternal grandmother, who, with my grandpa, lived in the apartment adjacent to the glass factory. For most of my waking hours, I spent time in this family business.
I had three uncles from my mom's side, who all worked in the family business. It was clear that everyone wanted to build their own thing when, in the late 80s, they all started their businesses as subsidiaries of the original glass business.
I recently read a piece on feeling insufficient: "Low self-worth is inevitably connected to the buried and hidden assumptions about the world, others, and ourselves that we mistake as fact. Core beliefs are often formed when we are children, with a child's simple perspective. So, they can be surprisingly dramatic and untrue. And yet we unwittingly base all our life decisions around them."
I think this is so true with how I grew up and got into living in an entrepreneurial setting, where everything revolved around pushing hard to accomplish things, not ever celebrating wins. Nothing was enough.
To have an inner voice that is critical and judgmental.
Tony Robbins says, "Ask yourself: Would I say this to my best friend? Would I treat anyone else the negative way I treat myself? We're often much harder on ourselves than we are on others, but with mindfulness and dedication, we can change our story."
Two years ago, I read Kamal Ravikant's book "Love Yourself As Your Life Depends on It," I started practicing his mantra of loving yourself. At the same time, I got deep into meditation practicing. It took a month, and I started seeing results becoming more apparent in the distinction of the inner voice.
To me, there was no inner voice left. Meditation had removed the feeling of always needing to work, always rushing into things. I believe that my inner voice is a part of that need and has been a motivator to keep pushing. The thing that runs your fight or flight system.
Mindfulness can improve things so that you can hear your thoughts clearly.
To compare yourself to other people
We all compare ourselves to others, and I assure you that the people who seem to have it all do not. They are also chasing the next thing.
I believe this is one of the places to research when considering why anyone starts believing they aren't good enough. Was it because they failed at a task or because someone told them they were incapable?
When I failed my first startup, I felt like I had just lost six years of my life. And that I wasn't a person who could do startups. How did I manage to get back into startups and founding Next Games? I compared myself to other entrepreneurs who were doing well. I convinced myself that I can do it because they can.
It's good to note that the people you compare yourself to compare themselves to other people, too.
The trick is to stop comparing when you've reached a good enough spot, which you will only discover by slowing down and reflecting.
Drive for progress
Last year, I realized I wanted to pursue another big project. Even though Elite Game Developers has continued becoming a more significant thing every year, I felt it is more of a blog for me, an outlet to share, than an enterprise.
The entrepreneur in me wants to build stuff. So, I decided to start a VC fund of my own. In 2023, my partner David Kaye and I are operating F4 Fund and have already done several investments.
Let's go back to last year. I told myself that since I'm just in my mid-forties, shouldn't I still want to put twenty years into building something great, pushing myself, and challenging myself?
Jim Collins puts it well in Built to Last: "Like a persistent and incurable itch, the drive for progress in a highly visionary company can never be satisfied under any conditions, even if the company succeeds enormously … The drive for progress doesn't wait for the external world to say, "It's time to change," or "It's time to improve," or "It's time to invent something new." No, like the drive inside a great artist or prolific inventor, it is simply there, pushing outward and onward."
He continues, "You don't create Disneyland, build the 747, pursue six-sigma quality, invent 3M Post-it notes, institute employee stock ownership in the 1880s, or meet with a store manager on your deathbed because the outside environment demands it. These things arise out of an inner urge for progress."