Success in Today’s Pop Culture

I love my desk job.

Okay, so not every day is perfect. In fact, most days aren’t. But I am proud of all I have accomplished, and I am grateful for everything I am learning.

There’s something in the modern world that frowns upon a desk job, though. We get out of college ready to conquer the world and then wake up a couple years later with some faint inspiration of how to spice up the same old cubicle wall we’ve been staring at for the eternity and a half. It’s quite unglamorous. And though it’s what keeps the wheels of society turning, our culture says you’re not doing quite enough.

What Pop Culture Says about Success

Pop culture would have us believe that we have not arrived until we travel and take pictures of ourselves for a living. It’s the pinnacle of the modern-day existence. Until everyone else is wondering where exactly your money is coming from and wishing they were in our shoes, we aren’t quite as successful as you could be. Really, it’s about becoming the person everyone else wants to be.

It’s not healthy, nor is it realistic.

Actually, it’s quite intangible and, ultimately, unattainable. If we chase after that kind of “success,” we will always be left wanting. And in the wanting, we will be steady looking to the right and left to see if people are watching us and liking us and making sure we are far enough ahead to stay, in pop culture’s lingo, relevant.

“Do not turn to the right or to the left; keep your foot from evil.” Proverbs 4:27

The Problem with The Pop Culture Standard

  1. It’s all image based – the biggest problem with the modern-day culture’s definition of success is that it is completely image based. The nitty gritty, unglamorous day to day isn’t worth showing, so it stays hidden. Social media lies. And as a result, many of us have gotten really good at lying, too, in the way that we present ourselves when we’re out in public. Many people put a smile on their face out in public but struggle with depression and anxiety behind closed doors, only exacerbating the problem. Pop culture can leave us thinking we don’t measure up if every moment of our day isn’t worth posting a picture of. Truly, though, the image of success doesn’t bring genuine satisfaction.
  2. It ignores the value of contributing to society – Another big problem with pop culture’s standard for success is that it ignores the every day man’s contribution to society. The truth is, the grand majority of people in the world work a traditional type job. This is the crux of what keeps our society moving forward. Whether it’s administrators, technicians, accountants, doctors, nurses, teachers, small business owners, mothers, store clerks, etc., these are the people who make the world go around. There is a sense of pride (the good kind) that comes with contributing to the communities we live in. It’s hard work paying off. Pop culture’s view of success puts the focus on self-achievement and elevation. On the other hand, true success focuses on what we put into the world that adds value to others and the community.

Why say yes to the desk (or another traditional lifestyle):

A lot of young people find themselves out of college with nothing lined up next. It’s not because there aren’t options out there. Instead, it’s because they haven’t quite found an option that suits the success level they want to be at or look like they’re at. Most jobs don’t fit the pop culture definition of success, especially entry level jobs. If it’s not picture perfect, many young people will wait for a better option….and wait and wait.

And even for those who are in a stable job, it’s easy to stare out the window daydreaming of better days ahead if only you could catch a break from the 9:00-5:00 long enough to make the side hustle lucrative. Guilty is charged.

But there’s so much beauty in the work. There is so much to be gained and to be given in the day to day. Be it at home raising children, behind a desk crunching numbers, or in the field performing repairs or installations, there is sparkle in the sweat.

Discipline

We gain discipline when we commit ourselves to a job and see it through. Discipline looks a lot like doing the right thing even when we don’t feel like it. When the world tells us we should only have to do what we want when we want it, wisdom knows that life looks a lot more like digging in on the worst days as well as the best. Discipline looks past our own fleshly desires to work for the greater good. And in the discipline, we find motivation, and in the motivation, we find purpose. And in the purpose we find greater hope and joy and the urge to dig in to the process because we have caught a glimpse of the bigger picture that reaches far above and beyond ourselves.

Personal Growth

When we lean in to the place God has us, to the unglamorous day to day, we find personal growth in each moment of each day. When we look for worldly success, it’s an uphill battle. We are fighting for something that doesn’t exist in the first place, so we can easily get stuck in pits of frustration, anger, depression, anxiety, self-centeredness, you name it.

But when we put our efforts towards the space God has blessed us to be in, He shows up in ways that we would never expect and gives us opportunities to stretch ourselves from glory to glory. He raises up people to act as mentors and teachers. He places us in positions that allow us to practice what He is speaking to our spirits in our alone time with Him. He gives us favored positions of leadership or influence in our sphere. He gives us wisdom and insight for the moment in the space He has called us to.

Security and Stability

The truth is, while pop culture’s standard of success may bring wealth to the random few, it does not offer security to many. And even those who do find some measure of success in the world’s way aren’t guaranteed it will be sustained. When we put ourselves to hard work, though, we find security and stability. What’s popular changes with the wind, but hard work will always pay off. When we work hard and contribute to the world around us, we find ourselves stable in routine, in finances, and in purpose. Rather than being blown around with the changing whims of the world, we are steadfast in who we are.

That doesn’t mean that our work will always look the same. In one season it may look like working a desk job while in the next it looks like being a stay at home mom. It may mean working part time for a period, working from home, working as a consultant, working the night shift, or some other variation. It’s not about everything looking all neat and tidy and traditional; instead, it’s about planting your feet in a place and a lifestyle where roots grow deep and are able to grow strong because you are focused on where God is leading you rather than on what the world may perceive of you.

Still Going After the Dream

So does all this mean we’re better off to leave our whimsies and dreams behind and subject ourselves eternally to desk work? Certainly not!

It does mean, however, that we should look within our spirits and listen to the voice of God to find our true dreams rather than those that are directed by the world’s definition of success. God plants dreams in our spirits so that we can fulfill the purpose He has for us. But they are His dreams, dreams that bring Him glory, not the world’s dreams that are fleeting and self-focused.

God wants to bring our dreams to life, but most of the time, that looks like digging in where He has us and allowing Him to open doors in His timing. When He opens doors, it is our job to be ready to walk through them. It’s hard to be ready for what God has in store when we’re busy carving our own plans. His plans are so much higher than ours. If we set our sights on Him, He will bring all things to pass in their season.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.” Proverbs 13:12

The Point

In the end it’s all about finding contentment, stability, and peace in the place God has each of us. This is life, and there is beauty in the unglamorous moments. In fact, the little, seemingly mundane moments are often the most illustrious when we take a moment to observe all that God is doing in them.

We find rest when we find our lane. Instead of looking around and basing success on something so elusive as what’s popular in the world, we can shift our view of success to be based on our growth, our joy, our hard work, our relationship with God, and the love we’re surrounded with.

After all, real life is the most beautiful life to live.