Unschooling Part 2: Success is Broken

In part 1 I wrote about why we need to unschool.  Of course there are many, many aspects to unschooling and I’ll keep working through them here.

In this post I am going to focus on another vital reason, the fact that Success is broken.  We just need to look at the adult world to see that even the most educated among us are struggling unnecessarily with basic life.  Sure, we’ve got diplomas, homes, cars…the whole American Dream deal.  But as my friend’s young daughter likes to say, “What my heck!”

We are recycling insanity here.  Humans figured out how to coordinate with one another interdependently tens of thousands of years ago, yet today with every imaginable technological advancement we can’t seem to get out of our own way let alone create sustained periods of true organizational or community cooperation.

People, even ‘well off’ people, are struggling to live satisfying, healthy, and sustainable lives.  This makes no sense.

One massive reason for this is our definition of success.  We think that success is wealth when it’s not.  Success, the success we really want even though we don’t really talk about it much is actually prosperity.

Prosperity is the capacity to produce a surplus.  We think we want a million dollars or whatever, but when people actually get a million dollars the symptoms they faced before rarely change.  So success is not just an amount of money in the bank.

What we really want is an ongoing experience that includes peace of mind, satisfaction, and recognition for being valuable to others.  We’re actually far more concerned about our ability (our capacity) to continually refill our buckets (money, love, energy, health, customers, etc.) than we are about our absolute values at any given moment. 

Reserves and buffers and stores of these things are an aspect of security, but not prosperity.  Our reserves are about the past, what we are all concerned about is the future.  It’s not so much where you are now, but where you are going next.

Your bank account balance could be low, your relationship could hit a rough patch, or your health could be below par.  Obviously these things happen, but what separates the successful and the happy from the unsuccessful and the depressed is a knowing that “I’ve got this”, “I have the ability to bounce right back”.

This isn’t just a state of mind and it’s not positive thinking, it’s an actual capability, a skill, a capacity.  And it can and should be developed. 

People who have this capacity naturally end up with large stores in all their ‘accounts’.  People who don’t have this capacity end up not only with low balances in their ‘accounts’ but live with a continual sense of fear and anxiety about what’s going to happen to them.

This is why success in America is broken.  Our capacity, individually and collectively, to produce a surplus is WEAK.

We don’t build businesses, or go to work, or politic to produce surpluses – we do these things to get ‘enough’ or to get what we need – a big cash exit, a paycheck or more votes.  This isn’t cynicism, it’s reality and we can’t change our reality if we don’t face the truth.

Chronic stress and anxiety kill.  Literally and figuratively. Anxiety overloads every system in our bodies (as well as organizations and communities) and ultimately presents itself as symptoms of severe and terminal diseases.  Something like half of our population is on one or more prescriptions, often to reduce anxiety.

While anxiety kills literally, it kills figuratively as well.  It kills the future; energy, creative spirit, mood, relationships, marriages, businesses and our children’s future.  Anxiety is prosperity repellant.  Anxiety resembles a drowning victim that people fear will take them down with them.

Test scores and bank balances are how we measured success in the industrial economy, but they are the wrong target for the connection economy.

We need to be concerned about whether we are becoming strong learners and whether we are developing reputations that will continually pull support and opportunities towards us.  This is the difference between wealth (momentary ‘success’) and prosperity (a lasting and building capability).

The physics of building this capacity have been known for millennia.  The truths and the practices used to be passed from parent to child, from teacher to student, and generation-to-generation.  But for a number of historical reasons we lost this tradition, we lost the ability to prosper, and we lost our way.

As you unschool and you face a myriad of choices and offers, continually ask yourself if what you are doing or what you are having your children do is actually building a capacity to produce a surplus in all areas of life.