The Iceberg Illusion of Success

I found this picture on the internet and I really loved it and as usual, I would like to use it as a launching pad for today’s article.

I still remember my self when I was young, between the ages of 14 to 23, I used to envy people of my age or slightly older who seemed to have achieved the success that I want for myself.

If I saw another guy with a fancy car, I would immediately justify that by telling myself that he must have rich parents.

If I see a smart guy from a good university, I would say to myself that his parents could afford to educate him in such a prestigious university and then I would say to myself: only if I had the means, then I would have been more successful.

If I saw a guy with a hot looking girl, I would say to myself: “He must have money because that’s why the girl is hanging out with him. I don’t have a car or the money to take her out and give her a nice time”.

Back then, I could not afford to buy all the material possessions that I wanted. I remember when my peers used to have a Game Boy or a Sega Mega drive. They used to come to school and play with those game consoles and it made me feel sad and unhappy because I don’t have one myself. Often times, I would think about my parents with a bit of childish resentment. I had the sense of entitlement because I was immature.

Back then, I could not afford to take vacations or travel wherever I wanted. I was living in a continuous state of perceived lack, holding my happiness hostage to external situations. For a big part of my childhood and adulthood, It felt that my self worth really depends on how others perceive me, how much I have, what car I have, what cloth I wear, what kind of a girl friend I had.

It is needless to say that this mentality is really tiring. It is that of the “compare and despair” mind trap as mentioned in the book by Tom and Natalie Rusk. Each time I compared myself to others, I was feeling helpless and in despair.

It took me a long while to realize, by my own experience, that success is all up to me. I was judgmental and always thinking that those who are successful have made it overnight. The image above reads “Success is an iceberg” and I was oblivious of that.

I don’t want to sound that I was doing nothing in my life except comparing and envying others. I was a hard worker. I was learning all I could about computer programming and hacking. However, all the time I spent and all the sacrifices did not pay off until late in my life when I reached my early thirties.

To the outsider, like the one I was myself, it would feel that I was always like that. While in fact, I had 20+ years of hard work that lead me to the success I am enjoying today.

One of the biggest achievements in my life was getting hired by Hex-Rays and leaving Lebanon behind me. It meant a lot to me to be hired by Mr. Ilfak who was my computer programmer role model, even to this day. The second big achievement was when I moved to the country of my early childhood dreams: USA, the land of technology and innovation. It was Microsoft who employed me and relocated me.

During my journey towards achieving my dreams, especially when I co-authored my first book with Bruce Dang, I could remember all the inner resistance I faced, the sacrifices I made and how with perseverance and positive thinking I managed to successfully write Chapter 4 in the Practical Reverse Engineering book.

Coming to think about it, I am happy to have had a rough childhood with not much financial means. It is the hardship that made me a better person. It is with godly providence that I met people who helped me when I was helping myself. I wish that I will always remember my roots, no matter how “successful” I become.

In conclusion, I am happy to have learned about success the hard way, that success is really like an iceberg and that judging or envying others is not healthy.

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