Money, fancy cars, big homes, power, and fame - We all seem to hold certain cultural ideas of success. However, throughout various stages of life, in practical terms, our ideas of success changes. I came across this short story and in a silly way it speaks to our ideas of what exactly success is over a lifetime. The story reveals the full circle of success from beginning to natural end, and perhaps gives us a healthier perspective to consider.
At age 4, success is not peeing in your pants.
At age 12, success is having friends.
At age 16, success is having a drivers license.
At age 20, success is having sex.
At age 35, success is having money.
At age 50, success is having money.
At age 60, success is having sex.
At age 70, success is having a drivers license.
At age 75, success is having friends.
At age 80, success is not peeing in your pants.
There is nothing wrong with being professionally successful. Achieving goals is important and often, culturally, these goals are measured with dollar signs. Achieving a specific goal is wonderful, we are created with ambition to create, innovate and overcome - we enjoy the glory of the win but it fades quickly as we move on to other goals. For many, we are only as successful as our last success.
Many would point to large sums of money as success but from what I hear from those with large sums of money is that there comes a point when the difference between $X and $Y becomes redundant. The fallacy of "more" is better is revealed as shallow, cold and lonely. It as at this point the goals change, they become deeper, something more meaningful than dollars or winning. This is a powerful lesson that many learn in the second half of life and many first-half lifers would greatly benefit from.
Over a lifetime what we consider to be meaningful and successful will change. Success is sweetest when it is packed with meaning. Success is truly rewarding when it loaded and over-flowing with significance; the successes themselves contribute to something bigger than ourselves. These transcendent things include rich relationships with our spouse, our children and a few good friends. It includes philanthropy; helping to make life better for others. Another factor which adds meaning to our success is loving what we do. This is when our labours become in essence an extension of ourselves creatively, passionately and intellectually. This marks the shift from the labour of our backs - just a job, to an engagement of our heart and soul. This is the currency of authentic life.
Don't aim for success if you want it; just do what you love and believe in, and it will come naturally. ~ David Frost
Many of the most successful people I know who are also cultivating a deep sense of significance have expressed a similar theme; Do what you love as best you can. Do it with integrity, authenticity and enjoy it. Include those closest to you but not at their expense, and success with a resounding sense of significance will be the pleasant by-product.
- Reflect on Mark 8:37 "What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?" The Message. What would it mean to lose the real you? Or maybe a better question isWhat would it mean to find the real you?
- Take a few minutes and write your own eulogy. As morbid as it may sound, how would you like to be remembered by your spouse, children, colleagues and friends?
- Imagining yourself close to death, what things do you think will be truly important?
This will give you an idea of the kinds of things you want to invest yourself into now. Things that you may want to give greater priority. You may also become aware of things that you have given your life too, that didn't make the list above. This will give you an idea of some priorities that may need to be re-ordered.