Monday, August 10, 2009

What is Success?

If you follow my sister blog Preston's Path to Prosperity, you know, or at least I sure hope you do, that the premise is to document one person's rise from living an average, non-exceptional life to one that is truly outstanding and the thinking and beliefs that lead to that rise.

The problem is, it's a bit of a lie. Why? Because, I have already achieved success. However, you probably wouldn't define it that way.

By and large people have a very superficial definition of success. It looks something like this:

Must be a millionaire or better
Must hold a position of importance
Must have an attractive partner or partners
Must be healthy and in North America that generally means muscular/sexy body and plastic surgery so you have an attractive, youthful appearance as well as good overall health
Probably famous
Owns beautiful mansions, cars, clothes, etc.

I think most anyone would agree a rich, handsome, well built man with a gorgeous young wife and lots of ostentatious wealth would be a poster child for success.

Motivational Speaker Anthony Robbins understands this and that's the life he leads. He has to. Not for his benefit but for yours.

Let's face it, if Tony gave all his money to charity and lived and dressed very modestly, if he didn't work out and was as skinny as he once was, (although still healthy), if he married a very average or below average looking woman (even if she was an outstanding personality) and if you had never heard of him, you would not for a moment think he knew anything special that was worth listening too. At least, not without someone else recommending him.

So even though, at his core he was the exact same person, living his life exactly as he chose, living a life of boundless happiness, married to someone whom he loves and is loved by deeply, with fantastic knowledge that could change your life in an instant, you would not perceive him to have achieved success, at least not unless you got to know him. Anthony must have all those superficial signs of success on display so people will listen to what he has to say.

Here's another example of success that flys contrary to the thinking of the masses.

Mother Theresa.

Was she rich? Heavens no. She lived an extremely modest life.
Was she beautiful? Internally yes, where it mattered but she not a women men would look twice at.
Did she hold a prestigious position in life? Not my most people's standards.
Did she have an attractive mate? Not a worldly one, no, never.
Was she healthy? Yes, but not in the Hollywood sense that North Americans use to define it.
Did she own lots of great things. No.
Was she famous? Yes, but she did not seek it nor would it have made her any less of a success if she wasn't.

Let's face it, if you took her out of her religious attire and put her on the streets people would sooner think she was a baglady than a truly successful person. I'm sure you would agree they would be horribly wrong.

So then how do we define success? What makes a person successful?

The difference between a successful person and everyone else, is a successful person is defining the life they live while everyone else is allowing life to define them.

To put it another way, successful people are walking in faith. They are asking God for what they want and walking towards that in faith that the Lord will provide. They are not limiting what they are asking for, for they know that the Lord has no limitations. They are not living in doubt or fear.

Although they face daily uncertainy because the way forward is not clear it does not disway them. They have come to the firm realization that like walking through a dense fog, as you make each step forward you'll be able to see your immediate surroundings and take another step forward. Even when they do bump into something, that's okay, they expect and accept that that is going to happen. They just move around the obstacle and keep going. If they come to a wall they trust God will provide a way over, under, around or through and diligently search for that until they find it. If they step off an abyss they know God has a rope around them and will pull them back up. So while it may frighten for the moment, they do not doubt in their heart they'll soon be back on solid ground. In time they make it to where they are going.

Everyone else meanwhile avoids the fog, worried they'll get hurt or lost or merely be directionless because they don't know where they are headed to begin with. So they either move away from the fog, and have their path defined for them by the fog of life or sit still, not going anywhere, until the fog and their life passes away.

So to succeed you must have a clear vision of where you want to be that emboldens you, you must have deep lasting faith in your heart that you will arrive there and you must, must, must be taking action to achieve that vision (do not wait for God to place it before you, boldly go and claim it).

Vision, faith, persistant action those are the hallmarks of success. Even if you have not yet arrived, you are defining what life you are living and that is success.

What everyone else is doing, irregardless of their place in life, irregardless of how many of the superficial signs of success they have, is merely existing.

So our poster child of success could be rich and famous because of his parents, could have a gorgeous partner and many fancy things because he has money, he may even be given ownership of the family business but without vision, faith and persistant action of his own, he is still merely existing and is no more spiritually rich or fulfilled than a pauper. He is not successful, he is merely a dim shadow of the success that came before. So do not put stock in those worldly things.

Success is a state of mind, a state of being. And I have already arrived.

20 Years - Don't Let Life Pass You By

On Saturday I was contributing my time to a Christian Concert event ( A friend and I decided to take lunch at the Wendy's across the street. We arrived at an ideal time as there was also no line ahead of us but one quickly formed behind us. As we were being served the manager opened another cash to help out. Upon seeing the manager my friend remarked she thought that the manager (a woman) looked familiar. So she went over to talk to her and sure enough, they did.

My friend had worked with this woman at Wendy's 20 years ago (and I had worked next door at Culture's) and here this woman was was still working at Wendy's 20 years later.

20 years of Wendy's?? No offense to the fine establishment that Wendy's is but we had a hard time grasping that reality. In those twenty years we had each held half a dozen different jobs and had our own businesses, gaining unique experience from each position along the way. What experiences has she had in 20 years of working at Wendy's? A whole lot of the same old, same old.

Now to be fair, it's possible she left Wendy's pursued other things and for whatever reason returned, although I doubt it. I doubt anyone would return to Wendy's once they had expanded themselves in their careers. Regardless, if someone told her 20 years ago this is what she would be doing now, without question, she would have venomously called them a liar and assured them she would not. So what happened?

Without interviewing her on the matter we can only speculate but some of the answers are clear.

Comfort - Staying at Wendy's was more comfortable than trying to do something new. Possibly she has limited education or just doesn't believe she's all that bright. Either way she has vastly underestimated her own potential and allowed herself to settle for what was easy and safe.

Fear - There's always some fear in changing careers. Fear you may not be successful in your new job. Fear you will be rejected and never find another job. Fear you may not like your new job. Fear can conjure all sorts of ridiculous notions into your head.

Doubt - Clearly she doubts she could do better. Ties closely into fear.

Lack of Vision - Does not have any dreams or vision for her life. So she's just cruising down the river of life, caught in the current, seeing where it goes, better or worse.

Lack of goals - As above. She's not setting goals for herself. Even if she doesn't have any dreams or aspirations, she should still have been goal setting to get ahead in her life. After 20 years she should, at least, be regional manager, not still working front line manager.

Not before we pass judgement on this lady let's look at ourselves first. While very few of us, nowadays are in the same career for 20 years, many of us are stuck in some area of our lives where we haven't really moved on. Most likely, we aren't even aware of it or if we are, we choose not to think of it. Reflect for a minute on all areas of your life. Is there some area where you've allowed yourself to sit for 5, 10, 20 years? Looking back 20 years, are you now where you would have envisioned yourself being at this point in your life? If not, why not? Most likely for these same reasons.

Do not allow any more time to go by, you've been idle long enough. Decide, right now to change. Define what you want that change to look like and then take immediate action.

Don't allow the next 20 years to slip through your fingers.