Success and Perfection

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“I wish I wasn’t [the world’s richest man]. There is nothing good that comes out of that.” – Bill Gates

They say my victory at Wimbledon forces them to reassess me, to reconsider who I really am.

But I don’t feel that Wimbledon has changed me.  I feel, in fact, as if I’ve been let in on a dirty little secret: winning changes nothing.  Now that I’ve won a slam, I know something that very few people on earth are permitted to know.  A win doesn’t feel as good as a loss feels bad, and the good feeling doesn’t last as long as the bad.  Not even close (167).

The next person who phones is a reporter.  I tell him that I’m happy about the ranking, that it feels good to be the best that I can be.

It’s a lie.  This isn’t at all what I feel.  It’s what I want to feel.  It’s what I expected to feel, what I tell myself to feel.  But in fact I feel nothing (203).

I spend many hours roaming the streets of Palermo, drinking strong black coffee, wondering what the hell is wrong with me.  I did it — I’m the number one tennis player on earth, and yet I feel empty.  If being number one feels empty, unsatisfying, what’s the point? (204).
-Andre Agassi

You know, I’m no pro-tennis player; in fact, beyond playing Wii Tennis, I’ve only held a racket in my hands twice in my life. I have absolutely no clue what it even means to live a famed life. No spotlights and cameras here. No fame and fortune. And definitely no tennis. Just a regular girl.

Despite being the pretty average citizen that I am, something deep inside me really resonates with Agassi. I mean, a part of me doesn’t understand him at all; the most physical exercise I’ve been getting lately is walking down the street to the closest Mcdonalds. Nevertheless, beyond the surface level dissimilarities between Agassi and I, a part of me really identifies with what he is saying. In fact, I more than identify.

I could almost fill in his sentences. You see, all my life, I’ve felt the urge to succeed and the irrepressible disappointment upon success. I’ve been driven, and have driven myself to be the best, to beat the rest, and much of the time, if that is what we can call ‘success’, I have been successful. The world tells us we should cheer and be praised for our wins in life. There is an expectation that life would change if we could only reach that perfect standard, that life should change upon reaching success.

What if I were completely successful? What if, somehow, by 80% hard work and 20% luck (as in, all the planets were aligned miraculously one day), I achieved success? Would I still be unsatisfied with just being ‘me’, or would my craving for success and achievement be quenched? Would I be more happy? This is a question that spins around in my head. Call me a cynic, but I remain doubtful.

Here’s a question: why, after being the most financially successful person in history, does Bill Gates still work? Sometimes, I wake up and wish I could be like Bill Gates: he has a family, a charity, and he’s one of the richest men in the world; he owns one of the most valuable homes on the face of the planet (complete with a golf course, cinema and twenty-four bathrooms); he has a library with some of the most prized books in history; he has access to the most influential people in the world; and yet, despite all of the successes he’s logged, it’s as though he regrets his title. There’s still something slightly unsatisfying about the prospect of being satisfied.

With every increase in my ‘achievement’ resume, I’ve only been left craving more. Or, at least, craving something. I tell myself often that it is just a craving to do better, to be even more successful. . .but it’s dawning on me that this can’t be what life is about, because with each passing day, and more and more successes logged, that gnawing feeling in my gut still exists. It’s the feeling that even though I’ve surmounted an insurmountable obstacle, I’m still just me.

Which leads me to think that beyond this craving, I don’t just want success. I want success to change me. And if I could just achieve perfect success, it could change me perfectly. And were I to change, I could be perfectly happy. I wouldn’t be the regular girl that I am. I wouldn’t just become more loving or experience more love, but I would love perfectly and experience perfect love. I wouldn’t just become more beautiful, I could experience perfect beauty. The sad thing is though, that the realist in me tells me that this longing for ultimate perfection isn’t something that can be quenched by any measure of success or perfection that I could achieve. I’m just not good enough.

So what will quench my craving for perfection, except for perfection itself? And it’s not just my own personal craving either. As humans, we seemed to be wired innately with this desire for bigger and better. Our cars are faster than ever, our buildings are taller than ever, our technology smarter than ever. Thanks to botox, people are more ‘beautiful’ than ever. It’s an insatiable drive towards perfection.

My thought is that if God is perfectly perfect, then maybe we need to allow what is absolutely perfect to engage with us and allow him to change us. This was, after all, Jesus’ main mission. In perfection, he came to engage with humanity, in the hopes of leaving a mark so deep that the world would be completely thrown upside down, and changed completely. Maybe this longing for perfection, this longing for ultimate success, is here, not so that we can deceive ourselves into thinking that “the next time will be better,” but because we were created to personally know and experience perfection. And maybe, the means by which we can experience this perfection, is not to strive day in and day out for this perfection, but rather to allow God, innately perfect in and of himself (by nature of being God), to engage with us, and transform us into who we were designed to be, as we enter into relationship with him.
Bolger, Joe. “I wish I wasn’t the richest man in the world, says Bill Gates,” Times Online Business. 05 May 2006. Times Online. 07 June 2010.
Agassi, Andre. Open: An Autobiography. New York: Knopf, 2009. 167, 203, 204.