Insecurity and success
Q: A new collection of Charles Schulz's writings shows that the creator of "Peanuts" was always insecure, even as he drew and wrote the world's most beloved comic strip. How much does success color one's self-image? Does a job well done necessarily bring satisfaction?
Success is not the same thing as confidence or satisfaction.
Success is Sisyphean and you never get the rock over the mountain top. Truly successful people pause briefly, if at all, to feel satisfied before they push ahead to the next level.
Charles Schulz in particular owed his success in large part to his insecurity. What made him unusual was his ability to understand and communicate that sense of insecurity in a way that made the rest of us feel more comfortable, a little less alone.
Charlie Brown's longing for the affection of the little red-headed girl made us all feel better about our own fears of rejection. His return every year to try to kick the football in hopes that this time Lucy would not snatch it away made it possible for us to laugh at the consequences of our own reliance on hope over experience.
If someone had been able make Schulz feel understood the way he did for us, would he have felt the need to keep drawing? To license his characters to sell everything from toothbrushes to insurance?
Schulz achieved and then exceeded every measure of success in his field. He transformed his industry. If he was the kind of guy who could feel that he had succeeded, he would have picked a different line of work than one that required him to turn out three different drawings -- perhaps nine or more on Sundays -- every single day, including weekends and holidays, for half a century.
For him, there was no finish line. Or if there was one, like Lucy's football, it was whisked away every time he got close to it. That was what kept him trying to to better.
One of the biggest misunderstandings about success is that people believe that certain public achievements -- fame, fortune, publication -- will change the way you feel about yourself. They can't and they shouldn't.
Satisfaction and meaning grow from the inside out; not the outside in. They don't come from awards or book sales or standing ovations. They come from a sense of contribution and connection.
Did you ever see an interview with Charles Schulz? It wasn't the questions about his comic strip that made his face light up. It was when he talked about something that was closer to his heart: his skating arena. The postage stamp honoring Schulz featured Peanuts, but the ceremony was held at his ice rink, where he was happy.
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