2014 has already turned out to be a more successful year than last year! You may ask be asking “how can that be we’re only 13 days in?” or better yet “this guy must have had a pretty terrible and unproductive year last year.” Not the case at all; actually last year was a year of some major accomplishments, achievements, milestones, and learning experiences. It was also a year filled with some major life changes and stressors, that left me mentally, physically and emotionally spent. 2013 was the first year I can recall saying to myself and hearing so many others say “I’m glad its over.” The statement is more figurative than literal of course because I have come to know the value of gratitude and the gift of staying in the present(that’s why its called a present ;)). The ability to find joy in the journey has been a life changing process. That being said, 2013 did not feel like much of a success.
So what made 2013 so difficult and this year so much more successful? The major difference between this year (all 13 days of it) and last is that I’ve actually begun to define what success means to me. If I can’t even envision what success means, looks, feels, and tastes like, how could I ever achieve it? This has been a game changer and has allowed me to see the progress towards my own defined success. It has also allowed me to learn, grow and stay energized through failures. While I look back to see the my accomplishments over the past year I ask myself if that is really what success means to me?
The study of success in my life has been an ongoing process, as I’ve hit many of the milestones previously laid out but not formally scrutinized. I’ve spent most of my career, both professional and personal, developing programs for the community and particularly at risk youth and families. In addition, I’ve been afforded the opportunity to speak, give workshops as well as training in many places around the country, over the past few years which has been both rewarding and humbling. I enjoy the human experience of providing hope where it seems hopeless, options to what appears optionless and voices to people who’ve felt voiceless. This has been where I’ve drawn most of my success stories over the years and am very proud of them.
During this past year I was afforded many additional responsibilities and oversight in my work that temporarily brought me away from this passion. At the same time I was going through a divorce and if there is anything that can drain your energy or view of success it could be a failed marriage. It was an extremely difficult time but like many other times of adversity in my life, forced me to reevaluate, refocus, and rededicate myself. The key to me was going through it without losing my passion and enthusiasm. Winston Churchill once said “Success consists of going from failure to failure without the loss of enthusiasm.” So that’s what I did.
I started looking at the legacy I want to leave and what needs to be defined. It started with the self assessment and ended with an end of the year conversation with my good friend and a mentor, Jason Womack. The conversation led to a simple question that I then posed to many people in my network. “What does success look like to you?”
What followed was extraordinary! I received an overwhelming response from people all over the country giving their perspective and answers to the question. There were some well defined and focused answers as well some people who were admittedly befuddled. Surprisingly, the responses of uncertainty came from some of the more influential and respected folks. All of whom have acquired many of the trappings that society deems successful. Money, homes, cars, businesses, status, etc. These very people reached out to me expressing the most inner conflict about the question. They mentioned that these “things” weren’t what success felt like to them. In fact the simple posing of the question had them questioning their purpose.
Some defined success as: achieving inner peace, self love, positively affecting the community, giving of yourself, and giving your children options, just to name a few. What was interesting was that none were convinced that their ideal definition of success matched the commitment they made on a daily basis to achieve that success. Furthermore, some admitted to putting minimal time and resources towards what they defined as success. So why the disconnect between 1)what we think is success and 2) how much time on earth we spend doing things not correlated at all to achieving success? Because we rarely take the time (other than on New Years) to develop a daily practice of defining and working towards success.
So what does success mean to you? When I asked my 12 year old his answer was “Success is what you accomplish after years of hard work.” I was proud that my son connected hard work with success but realized something profound. He at age 12, myself in 2013 and many of my accomplished friends are working hard to an undefined goal. If we never define what success looks like in our life, then how will we ever achieve it? Take some time to write down what success look, tastes, smells, and feels like to you. Then ask yourself:
- Is the way I’m living my life in tune with attaining my definition of success?
- If Success is being an active parent, then how much time are you spending with your children?
- If Success means inner peace, how much time are you taking to get in tune with yourself and spirituality?
- If Success is helping people, how much of your time is taken only helping yourself?
- If Success is a big promotion, then how much time are you taking to work harder and smarter?
- If Success is writing a book, then how much time are you spending on research and writing?
Take time to think about this and ask are you being good to yourself or are you short circuiting your own success?
This is why my 2014 has already been such a success, because I’ve not only defined what it is but have done something everyday towards achieving it. So take the time this year to define what success looks like to you, because nobody can make success look as good on you then you! Success does have a look, and it is up to you to tailor it as your own. Peace