What drives you? Ambition? Wealth? Power? Or something much deeper and more gratifying?

I just read a beautiful essay from Taiwan about a guy who pursues his ideals to study and protect the ecosystem, and despite having earned his doctorate, lags behinds many of his peers who earned a lot more in business and other careers. Many of his peers went on to own large properties and other investments and savings, while this environment scientists still lives out of a small rented place with no savings to his name. The writer of the article applauded this scientist, calling us to the courage and sacrifice this scientist made by staying true to his ideals.

More often than not, a relative or a friend would ask the same thing about me. To these relatives and friends, I could have become much wealthier (materially) if I stayed in large corporate jobs, or become more ambitious in my business ventures. They sometimes compared me to some other people of similar “vintage” (or even much younger) and mentioned without malice, that I was not as “rich” as these people.

However, time and again, without arrogance or naïveté, I would reply calmly that I am as successful as I choose to be, and that I have done all I aspired to do within the time I journeyed, and that if I were to die this very instant, I have no regrets. I have accomplished a great deal of things in my life’s journey of nearly 50 years, and have conquered many challenges according to my limits and the Grace of God. And therefore, I am content.

The relentless pursuit of mere material wealth, power or might by some people, often tragically results in two outcomes – “success”, or failure.

The perceived “success” when one trampled on others to climb to material or power summits gnaws at the soul of such a person. Some of them might sleep soundly still, strangely as it sounds, while others would have uneasy nights.

Others, who failed at climbing such artificial “summits”, may feel miserable by choice.

Therefore, what then is success, or wealth? Is wealth or success merely material, or might?

I personally cannot find an opinion clinging on to mere accumulation of material wealth or a control over others as comforting, or even successful.

Call me contrarian, but success and wealth is the relentless and consistent polishing of rough knowledge into wisdom, and a climb towards humility and compassion, accepting that we are but a small contributing part of a greater universe, and that we are mere pegs, and every journey can be gratifying and fulfilling, and yet humbling with joyful tears.

The longer one travels in life, the more one may finally submit to the realization that mere material and power pursuits, become mere fleeting fog and clouds (過眼雲烟), when mortality creeps ever closer. There is a greater reason and purpose in life, and may you find peace, joy, and love always.