(or just poorly defined)
“The interesting thing about success is that our ideas about what it would mean to live successfully are not our own.” – Alain de Botton
If we were all to close our eyes and think of the word “success,” it’s likely that many of us would come back with a tragically low amount of innovation in what we see.
Suits, Big houses, Stages, Nice cars, Bill Gates, Picket fences, Beach homes, Brad Pitt, Magazine covers…etc
And unfortunately, this lack of creativity comes from the fact that most of our definitions of success are not personal to our lives. They’re simply inherited from others. These ideas may come from our parents…or Hollywood…or some slightly-overweight-middle-aged ad man who drives a red convertible and gets paid far too much to create TV commercials.
Here’s the catch.
If we don’t intentionally create new associations with “success,” we’re in danger of living someone else’s life.
The problem with inheriting our ideas of success…
MOST MODERN VERSIONS OF SUCCESS ARE OVERRATED.
According to Webster, success can be defined as “the attainment of popularity or profit.” This obviously plays nice with most of our projections. Yet, history seems to think that luxury and fame rarely amount to much of a life.
Fame makes you feel permanently like a girl walking past construction workers. | Brad Pitt
Don’t try to be a billionaire. It’s overrated. | Bill Gates
Fame is overrated and it frightens me when kids say ‘I want to be famous.’ | Keira Knightley
Even when a person has an abundance, his life does not result from the things he possesses. | Luke 12
MOST MODERN DEFINITIONS OF SUCCESS ARE INCOMPLETE.
It’s not that money or fame are bad. We all know the meaningful role finances and influence can play in life. It’s just that money and fame are often the only parts of our definition – leaving relationships, health and spirituality to be slotted in and undervalued.
We’ve heard too many deathbed confessions about how they would have cared less about their career or money and more about family or friends to believe that wealth & fame make a good brand of success.
WE WERE MADE TO BE SUCCESSFUL.
We all have a deeply felt need to be successful. Call it whatever you want – being faithful, meeting expectations, winning – but feeling successful is a healthy part of being fully human. So why is this a problem?
When we inherit our ideals of success, we are driven by another person’s definition and miss the unique existence that only you or I can live.
Inheriting v Creating.
“There are so many ways to walk upon the earth.” -Brett Dennen
Recently, the guys in my mastermind group and I began the conversation about our impersonal ideas of success. We quickly realized that most of us didn’t like, nor did we want, our current inherited definitions.
So…over the course of 2 weeks, we asked each other three simple questions. These questions have proved to be a great starting point I would suggest to anyone interested in not living another person’s carbon copy life.
1. WHAT IS SUCCESS TO YOU?
We all approached this differently. Some documented an ideal day from start to finish. Others, detailed what their relationships would feel like, the streams of income they wanted, and/or the products and projects they wanted to create. Here are some pieces of each…
“A simple & local life that is professionally-exciting, relationally-connected & spiritually-inspired…”
“A life with the freedom to choose what I do, when I do it, where I do it from and who I do it with…”
“My wife has life in her eyes and my kids, emotionally empowered…”
“No matter the income, my work has a sense of purpose and progress…”
“12pm-2pm everyday: Siesta with friends, business partners, or family…”
“The time and geographic location to foster relationships with people who challenge, encourage, and inspire me, and of whom I can reciprocate the same…”
“My ideal day involves helping or investing in to someone, intentionality, laughing, work, flexibility, and mobility…”
2. WHY DO YOU WANT THIS BRAND OF SUCCESS?
Being pushed by fear or expectations isn’t nearly as powerful as being pulled by purpose and vision. Answering WHY we wanted this new brand of success was arguably the most significant layer to what we did. Here’s an aggregate of our thoughts.
“I want to be financially successful to eat, drink, and be merry when it is time to do these things; in order that I may surround myself with beautiful things, see distant lands with my kids, feed my mind, spend time with people I love, and develop my intellect; in order that I may love others and do kind things, and be able to play a good part in helping the world to find truth…” (revised from Wallace Wattles)
“For the time and energy to invest into my family & friends…”
“To offer my wife & children the opportunity to fully experience and enjoy life: education, international exposure, skill training, adventures…”
“To take care of friends & family with finances, quality time, a safe place, life wisdom…”
“For independence from the “system” & freedom of choice…”
3. WHAT’S ONE THING YOU’RE WILLING TO TRADE FOR THIS BRAND OF SUCCESS?
“Obsession with working too much…”
“Fear of criticism & Preference for hiddenness…”
“Need for security and financial control…”
“Finding my identity in what I do…”
Your turn. And no this isn’t just another tag question on the end of a post to try and get more engagement. Take some time to ask yourself these questions, and even if it’s pieces of your answers, I want to hear them. I want to be inspired by them. Comment below or email me.
Photo Cred: Marc Wanamaker