I was lucky enough to speak as a key note speaker last week at a large corporate event and while I was there I bumped into an old friend, who I used to work with many years ago. He asked me a question that baffled me… “How does it feel now that you are successful?”
This question made me internally raise some different questions… “What is success and how do you know when you have made it?”
Would you know how to answer those questions?
In my experience ‘Success’, to the majority of people, is associated with money, status or both… My old friend believed I was successful because I was being paid to talk on stage, which to him indicated that I was rich and high-profile. Thus a success…
Is success money?
It is easy to believe it is, but just for a moment imagine the biggest loser you know… The nastiest, most selfish, least friendly, least successful person you have ever come across.
Now imagine that person is given ten million dollars… Are they now a success?
I think it is fair to say that success isn’t about money… money might come with success, but it doesn’t make you successful as a defining factor.
Is Status success?
Again it is easy to believe what is commonly portrayed in the media… Famous people are successful. The famous have it all apparently, the lifestyle, the adoring public, the perfect life.
Would you say Robbin Williams, who was deeply depressed and tragically ended his own life, was successful? Did he have it all?
There are many more examples of famous people living deeply unhappy lives, despite their fame… Are you successful if you are deeply unhappy?
“There are no secrets to success. It is a result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure.” Colin Powell
If it’s not money or fame… what is it?
People more capable and knowledgeable than me have written mountains of literature on this subject, so I don’t expect to provide the ultimate solution… What I can provide is the learning I have had researching this literature over the last 15 years and my own personal life experience.
Immersing yourself in work you care about, practising and practising and practising… Turning talent into high level skill is one of the most engaging and absorbing activities you can do. This is articulated brilliantly in a book called “Flow” by Mihaly Csiksgentmihalyi, whereby the feelings of being most alive, most confident and most successful in life, come from total immersion and mastery.
As well as feeling fantastic, mastery also has the added benefit of excellence… and being truly excellent and world-class at anything, comes with the ability to be payed more money for that skill… Now surely the concept of monetising something you love and enjoy sounds like to success?
The simple fact is the more you give the more fulfilled you will be… Don’t get me wrong, this is not about giving money. Giving money to worthy causes is nice and good, but it is nothing compared to giving your time, giving your knowledge, giving yourself to those who need it.
If you want to feel a certain way, give that away… This sounds counterintuitive and risky, but it is absolutely true. Don’t believe me? Try it today – Go out of your way to make someone happy. Let me know how you feel afterwards!
So you want to feel successful? How about feeling fulfilled? Then help people become successful, help people feel valued, help people feel fulfilled…
I will let you into a secret… That is why I write these blog posts each week… The idea that something I write might spark a light in just one reader, maybe in you, lights me up beyond measure.
What was the answer I gave to my old-friend?
“I’m still working on it…”