Friday, July 13, 2012

What Does Success Mean to You?

Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome. - Booker T. Washington

When most people think of success, they think it’s about attaining wealth, accolades, and awards.  Yes, those are forms of success. However, success is more than that; it’s whatever it means to you. There is no set measurement or definition for success.  To some people, success is simply being able to wake up another morning and get out of the house. For each individual, measurement of success changes as we grow and evolve. For example, that person who succeeded in waking up and getting out the house may now feel like they can take it an extra step further and strive to be successful at something else now that they are out of the house. It is a step by step process that is created by YOU. And once you accomplish something, it makes you stronger and more determined. It makes you believe that you can be successful at whatever you choose to go after. It fuels your fire and pushes you to keep going.

At this stage of my life, a quote from one of my favorite authors, Ralph Waldo Emerson, sums up what success means to me:
"To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better; whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you lived. This is to have succeeded."
When I read that quote in one of his works while in college, it was as if a lightbulb went off above my head. Since I was a kid, success was defined for me by having a prestigious career, which would give me status in the world. I knew I was a writer at heart from an early age. But was told repeatedly by my teachers and mentors that writing was not a real career. I grew up in a housing project so my ticket to a better life was to go to college and become “someone”.  I strived to be a lawyer. That became my dream of success. I loved to read and the law intrigued me. So I put my true love of writing on the back burner.

By going to college, I had already succeeded. I was the first one in my family to go to college. My parents, especially my dad, were so proud. I always say that my dad was one of the smartest people I ever knew and he only had a high school diploma. So I will never forget how wide his smile was at my college graduation because I achieved something he had always wanted to do. I graduated with honors and as a double major.  Everything happens for a reason. I went to college with the intent of being a lawyer and walked away a changed person. Emerson’s quote (and his works) made me reflect on my life and what success meant to me.  

Success means to me, to pursue what you love and do the best that you can at that. If it means feeding the homeless to even being in the circus as a performer, if you are doing what you love and doing it well, you have already succeeded. All of us can’t be as rich as Warren Buffet. Even though it would be extremely nice, it is not meant for some of us have that kind of wealth. But it does not mean we won’t have wealth in other aspects of our lives. As I wrote about previously in “Whatis Your Calling?”, we are all here for a reason. We all have a calling; what we are meant to do in this life. I think some of us focus too much on being successful financially or professionally that we overlook the other successes we have in our lives. We're already successful and many of us don't even know it.   

Being successful starts from within. It starts with believing that anything is possible if you go after it.  Once you have that positive attitude and are willing to go after what you want, you can do anything you set your mind to and be successful in your own right. Whether it’s starting a workout regimen like I just did recently to something as big as buying a house or starting your own business; all of these things are attainable, if you believe you can do it. You have to believe in your own success. At the end of the day, we are our own worst enemy. We can change that, though, by being the president of our own fan club. It all begins within you and how you look at your life.

After you have your belief intact, the next step is to set your goals and create a plan on how to accomplish them. I used to hear people talk about their 5-year plan and would think to myself, “Wow, that’s impressive that they can plan that far out and be so sure about what they want to do.”  You have to do what works for you. For me, I believe small goals are more effective because I tend to get overwhelmed when I look at the big picture and try to tackle too many goals at once. When we’re overwhelmed, that can cause us to doubt ourselves and give up because we think that goal is too hard to attain. I’m all for baby steps because sometimes that baby step leads to something huge, something phenomenal.

So to sum this up, success is not measured by the amount of money or exposure you have in the world. It is about doing what you love and when your time on this Earth is over, you will have eulogized your life with the deeds you did. That is the legacy you leave behind. And I think that is something pretty successful in its own right. So ask yourself: What does success mean to you? Believe me, the answer to that question can transform your life.

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