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The Emptiness of Success

In a recent interview at the Aspen Ideas Festival, PepsiCo CEO Indra K. Nooyi was asked if she thought, in this day and age, that women could “have it all” and achieve the ever-elusive work/life balance. Her candid answer surprised the crowd. “I don't think women can have it all,” she replied. “I just don't think so. We pretend we have it all. We pretend we can have it all. My husband and I have been married for 34 years and have two daughters. And every day you have to make a decision about whether you are going to be a wife or a mother. In fact, many times during the day you have to make those decisions. We plan our lives meticulously so we can be decent parents. But if you ask our daughters, I'm not sure they will say that I've been a good mom. I'm not sure. And I try all kinds of coping mechanisms.”

On any given day, people are reaching the pinnacle of success as defined by others only to experience the all-pervasive truth that success, as defined by society, is an empty promise. Fame and fortune can be an empty, lonely place, and the accumulation of authority, assets, and recognition are often a one-way ticket to a shallow and unfulfilled life. The more you strive to attain the perceived threshold of celebration, the more unconsciously or consciously you move away from alignment with your soul. When that happens, no matter what you do and no matter how many coping mechanisms you employ, your balance is lost.

But in the midst of this experience, a natural emergence is occurring on a soul level – a greater inner calling to exemplify and demonstrate fully the altruistic qualities that you are inherently encoded for. The only objective yet to come is to align with the soul’s agenda. That is the secret that leads to fulfillment.

Can you be at peace in the midst of your success? On a logical and analytical level, I would entirely entertain the possibility that you can. On a practical level, there must be an inner integrity and commitment to living what is true for you. This driving force makes you unwilling to compromise your inner harmony for gain and prestige. There comes a point when the platitudes of others fail in comparison to gratitude that is felt in a life that is being fully lived.

It’s time to cease the chase, stop pretending, and release the “doing.” Doing only does you in. There is a price to be paid for this kind of success: you pay with your health, your relationships, your family, and sometimes your life. For this reason, I invite you to forgo any or all notions of success as determined by others. Fill the emptiness with your own self-love and authentic expression. Allow your inner harmony to become the most important thing of all and know that you have attained success in the truest sense.

Then, and only then, will you have it all.