Monk Thich Nhat Hanh wrote, “Success isn’t a matter of talent alone. There are many elements that contribute to success. Even if you’re the most talented person, even if you have real insight, if the right time has not come, you won’t be successful. So you just do your best, and if conditions are sufficient you’ll have success. You can never be sure that you’ll be successful. That’s the reality.” (p. 134)
This week I have been thinking about this quote and the way we think of ourselves doing things that we want, when we want to do them. Determination, ambition, drive, will, agency; these are the internal shapes of action. The external shapes and measures, those beyond our control, are what we try to control, as much as we try to control our own actions. These two things, and how we “make” time and our determination, are interesting parallel thoughts.
The first thought is supported by the second thought. The underlying division and assumption is that although these two are separate, they must be controlled. That we must somehow control ourselves and the external world to accomplish our solitary goals. This thought, that we can make and shape those internal and external forces to achieve what we decide, is a comforting one. I think we would have a broader definition of success if we loosened our ideas of determination and time.
What if we changed our thoughts on the external world and were more allowing than controlling? Not that we made time, or that we fixed our determination, but that we allowed time, ungraspable, to move accordingly. Perhaps our determination would then be to not control, but to be with whatever happens.
I set aside a day to write this blog. My first draft took 20 minutes. I sat with it, reread it a few times in passing while listening to the rain, and 5 hours later decided to publish it. I liked my time with this post, and I consider that, more than this post itself, a success.