We are the melting pot, the land of opportunity. We are told from birth that here, anything is possible. We can be whatever we want to be, and have anything we want, as long as we are willing to work for it. We are given a clear image of success, a seemingly unattainable point in life that everybody is supposed to strive for - the corner office, the fancy trips, and the Mercedes-Benz.
Every day we work hard to get ahead, because we are taught that this is what we are supposed to do, that this is what is expected of us. We never stand still, because there is always more to work toward, the next mountain to climb, the next obstacle to conquer. We just keep pushing forward, and hope that in the end we will reach that 'unattainable' image, that one day, when we will be successful.
It's sad that this image of success has been so ingrained in our minds, that we sometimes feel anything less is a failed attempt. If this were truly the case then by these standards, there are probably more failures out there than true winners. If this were the 'true' definition of success, then it would mean that the man working long hours on his farm, to supply produce to the masses, has failed. This would mean that the cashier that stands for eight hours at a time so that we can get speedy service, has failed. What about the painter who stays awake till 2:00 a.m. so that our house can be beautiful, or the mother, who despite her college degree, decides to put her career on hold for a few years to care for her child. Should we consider them as failures?
The truth is that business as we know it, wouldn't be successful without employees at all levels working hard to lay a strong foundation. Whether it's the laborer, accountant, manager or owner, the structure would easily fall apart without the support of everybody involved. Therefore, no one would ever fit this 'image', if it weren't for everybody else helping to make the business successful. So not only does this image isolate a certain group of people from business as a whole, it is also an insult to the rest, who also work hard and dedicate their time to the business.
Despite this fact, the image of success, the image of the executive in the corner office, has not changed. We see it in magazines, in newspaper articles and advertisements, even in the portrayal of characters on some of our most popular TV shows. It is everywhere, surrounding us and weighing on our society like a migraine that just won't quit.
It is possible that this image is simply a tool to keep us motivated. After all, without something to reach for or work toward, there is little to motivate us. I can accept that reasoning, though I have a difficult time accepting the glamorous portrayal of the lifestyle that accompanies this image. There seems to be this perception that people who have reached this pinnacle have few troubles, that they are free to do whatever they please, and have control over their life, when in fact they too have obstacles to overcome. Not everything is as glamorous as it seems.
Even if this wasn't the case, even if this lifestyle was as glamorous as it seems, the fact that not everybody wants the same thing out of life, should not be dismissed. We are all so different. We have different lives and different views. We can't possibly all fit into one neat little category, and be told that this is what we should work toward, that this is what we should consider success.
So maybe we can't change the landscape of advertising, or the portrayal of wealthy successful businessmen in the corner office. Maybe this image will always remain for those who choose to work toward this goal. Maybe what will change is, how we as individuals measure success, and where we place value in our own lives. Maybe it's not up to others to change or define it for us. Maybe it's up to us, and maybe making the choice to define our own image is the true meaning of success.