Is the Struggle to Be Succesful Even Worth It?

I’ve had days when my fear of failure has been so intense that I could barely look at my wife and son – it happened as recently as yesterday. There have been so many times when I’ve felt sick with worry that my freelance business would fail – I’m not talking metaphorically here, I mean the type of sick where you have your head in the toilet. .

Climbing Mount Feathertop

The struggle to be successful wouldn’t be so bad if I could be certain it would all work out in the end. All the worry and sleepless nights would be worth it if I knew for sure that it was just the price of admission to the winner’s circle. I do my best to stay positive, but I know there are no guarantees.

I don’t like to talk about my father on here. I probably talked about him too much in my first book. The things I wrote then really upset him – he died a couple of years later.

I felt angry with my dad for a long time. He was this super-positive workaholic who was obsessed with his career. I rejected his values by choosing a life of menial jobs and alcoholism. Then he died, and it is like I’ve become him.

That’s not really true – I never felt comfortable in my role as an alcoholic failure. Choosing the path of success felt like coming home – it was like waking up from a bad dream to a sunny day.

My dad’s life almost had all the ingredients of an inspiring story – that type of thing that would appear in a book like ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’ – I’m guessing here because I’ve never actually read any books from that series.

My Dad left school at eleven – barely able to read but with the intense determination to succeed. He became a salesman and worked his way up the career ladder until he eventually had his own successful business. – his rise to success shaped my childhood as every few years we would move to a nicer home.

For a few years, my father was living the dream – if only his story had stopped there, but it didn’t. He lost his business. He then had to swallow his pride and go back to working for somebody else. To make things worse he developed arthritis in his knees and hands which isn’t great when you need to drive all day as part of your job..

I think the worst thing for my dad must have been losing the passion for his work – giving up on his dream. He nearly always sounded worried when I spoke to him on the phone during those last years. Then he had a massive heart attack. He survived but had suffered so much brain damage from lack of oxygen that he became completely dependent on other people. He managed to stay technically alive for another year and when he finally died, it felt like he had died twice – he was only 60.

My dad’s story doesn’t reassure me that being super-positive, laser-focused, and working hard is going to be enough to guarantee me anything. Maybe we can try our very best and still end up with nothing – in fact this is guaranteed because there are no pockets in shrouds. So why would I bother putting myself through all of this shit just to chase a dream that could so easily turn into a nightmare?

I continue with the struggle because it means I get to feel alive – when I stop chasing my dreams, I begin to die inside. We are all racing towards our death anyway, and I’d rather die a failure than somebody who never tried.


  1. Steven Dix

    Dear Paul,

    Reading your story has made me reflect on my past. What happens when a person achieves their “dream” early on in life?

    I am fortunate to have all that I need and have built financial security for my family and myself over the years. however I have realised that I was a workaholic and that I spent more time wrapped up in my own interests than spending more time with my children when they were young.

    What I have learned about myself and in general, that it is good to have a cause or a goal to aim for, as it give us a spirit or an internal energy, or if you like, a kind of dynamic force that can enliven us and also inspire others.

    It is always difficult to balance work and family, however now that I am older my thoughts are less about myself, but more about supporting my son and daughter through school and transition to adult hood.

    Its hard at times to keep self motivated, but not too self absorbed. As I watch my teenage children develop, I regret my being distant.

    I have had the courage to tell my older son this before its too late, His reply was “you’ve done the best you could”

    When I look at my Son, he is in his element when he does what he enjoys. I am not worried what career he turns to after University. My wish for him and also my daughter, is that they find their creative spirit and a career that not only gives them a purpose, but fills their lives with passion and ultimately a deeper contentment within themselves.

    I look forward to reading your brand new chapter. It can be a lonely journey through life at times but it is a well trodden path by many.

    Best regards


    • Thanks Steven, I like your description of an ‘internal energy’ – it is the ability of this to enliven me that I’m most attracted to.

      My son is six, and I do worry that I’m missing out on much of his childhood even though I work at home. I get so self-absorbed and caught up in my work, I need to change or it is going to be something later deeply regret.

      Why are your thoughts less about yourself these days? What changed? This is what I want for myself. I’d say that the majority of my problems in life are due to self-absorbtion.

      Thanks a million

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