Mia Hagerty reviews Eyes Wide Open and reflects on success, perspective, and the importance of living life as though you’re on a desert island.

For those of us born in the United States, we’re raised to believe that success is dressed in business professional and comes with two cars in the garage. When I was a little girl, I looked up to my mom, the ex-lawyer turned CEO of my family’s business, as who I was supposed to be one day, and I was quick to dismiss those who didn’t fit my idea of success.

Isaac Lidsky, an ex-actor, ex-lawyer, and current CEO and author, had a similar notion of success. His convictions were so strong and so true that even when lost his sight as a teenager and became permanently blind, he still rose to our culture’s definition of success. After a brief stint as a child actor, he graduated from Harvard at 19, clerked for a U.S. Supreme Court Justice, and worked as a lawyer in a large firm.

For those of us born in the United States, we’re raised to believe that success is dressed in business professional and comes with two cars in the garage.

But something was missing. For him, this just wasn’t what life was about. By any American measure – be it societal, monetary, or status – he was considered successful. But by his measure, he was nothing more than what he called a ‘corporate chauffeur.’ He thought of his law career in the following way: “I detested the obligation to keep track of my time in billable six-minute increments and the enormous pressure to work as many of those increments as is humanly possible.”

Lidsky’s preconceived notion of the road to success finally aligned with the life he was living – and he was left empty. Despite the enormous amount of time he had poured into his law career, Lidsky boldly began the slow unraveling of his life, asking himself what it meant to be successful to him and going along for the ride that followed. One might say that he was fumbling around in the dark, but luckily for him, he had done it before and made it the other side into the light.

I don’t pretend to have my definition of success figured out yet, but here’s where it starts: on a desert island. I’ve begun to take the dreams and aspirations I’ve always held and ask myself if I would still want to do those things if I were alone on a desert island, forced to live out my life independent of my family, friends, and 24-hour news coverage. It’s started to serve as a pretty great guide for me.

I don’t pretend to have my definition of success figured out yet, but here’s where it starts: on a desert island.

So even while some people may experience divine Excel nirvana through a rigorous market analysis for a tech startup – what I thought my next logical step was going to be in life – I realized I wouldn’t be caught dead on a desert island doing such an activity. So for the time being, I’ll continue to try out different things, ask for lots of help along the way, and begin my slow unraveling. Lidsky made his way to the light and is now living his own definition of success, and I believe that we can do so as well if we are willing to readjust our perception.

A Look at a Book is a series I’m hosting to help keep you informed about the latest books having to do with adult development and middlescence. A Look at a Book is an efficient, enjoyable way to stay informed. 

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