What is success?
Everyone is afraid to define it for everyone else. If you say it’s about money, there’s someone who says it’s more about experiences. If you say it’s about experiences, there’s someone who says it’s about the progeny. For me, I want to be able to do what I want to do, without worrying about it.
Success is simple.
If I want to pop off to Scotland for two months, I want to be able to do that. If a charitable organization comes to me with a super interesting idea, a way to educate and empower people in a certain part of the world perhaps, I want to be able to give to that end without hesitating. If I decide I really want to take aerial silks classes, I want to be able to do it. And isn’t that what it really means? Freedom to do what we want to do.
So what stops us from getting it?
Execution gets in the way.
The execution, or how we imagine the execution should be, is where things get complex. This is the stage where I lose sight of what I’m trying to do, where I’m trying to get, and find myself tangled in a web of fear, stress and confusion.
One article says to get up before 0500 everyday (yes, I intentionally did that in military time), while another says some great inventor was a late riser. I devise a rigorous, 15 minute interval schedule, start off strong then it all collapses a week later. If that.
Why does this happen? Why do so many New Years Resolutions fade quietly into nothing, as January 13th rolls around?
Most lists treat behavior.
You can’t long maintain behavior without a changed mindset. Without the proper mindset, I may wake up at 5 am a few times, or a couple days in a row, but it won’t stick. Without the proper mindset, I might read up on FOREX trading a couple times a week, but will never make it a bona fide income stream. I believe in behavioral psychology and have found modifying certain behaviors to be helpful, but I’ve also lived the exhausting grind of trying to get myself to do things. And, after years of struggling, I am finally doing things I’ve always wanted to do.
I meditate almost every morning and night. I journal daily. I take leisurely walks. I blog twice a week. I started a podcast. I am excited about the future. I didn’t get here by forcing an endless list of behaviors. I got here by changing my own mind about what success really is.
#1: Success is built-in.
We tend to think of success as being somewhere ahead of us. But the first mindset shift is to accept that success is right here. I won’t say it’s within you, because even my eyes glaze over at statements like that. But I will suggest thinking of success as being somewhere on your person. You just forgot about it.
The fact is, every other living thing has its success built in. Lions need to eat wildebeest to survive; they have claws and mouths full of frightening teeth. Trees get burned or wounded; they have astounding self-healing capabilities. Bees need nectar to make honey; they go around gathering it, without confusion. The natural world as a whole is defined by success, with very little conscious thought.
Yet, when we look in the mirror at an adult human with a brain that likely operates at an exaFLOP (a billion billion calculations per second), we think, “I don’t have what it takes to succeed. It’s out there somewhere.” What?!
There are people who have done far more with far less than you. There are people who have done less with far more. There are people who had reason to be angrier, but aren’t. There are people who have little reason to be angry, but are. Some people have everything and are ungrateful. Others have nothing and are perfectly content.
Success is not out there. It’s built-in. It’s in your back pocket.
#2: Success is practice.
Expectation is the father/mother of disappointment. I read that somewhere, and it’s always stuck. Not well, clearly, but well enough.
If you expect success to be some grand moment in time, you will be forever chasing a moment in time, disillusioned by all the moments leading up to it. If you expect success to exist in the day-to-day behaviors that lead to true wealth and independence, you will start chasing those behaviors. You will feel like and be a success long before you “arrive.” The awesome moment will be the inevitable result, the cherry on top of it all.
As an aside, if you keep on with this idea–that practice is success–you’ll develop a wide ranging body of work quickly, and will give people something to discover and peruse. We live in a content-hungry world. No one can discover you if there’s nothing to discover. If success is practice, putting stuff out there and saying “what the heck” is the actual goal; you can be a success every single day.
So begin to think of success as practice. I don’t mean to start practicing for success or for the day when you are successful; I mean that practicing is success, in and of itself. I no longer see blog posts as means to an end. The post is the end. The goal. The big fish.
If morality is method, success is practice. Period.
#3: Success is staying in the game.
How many people quit too soon? That was rhetorical, really. We all know the answer.
And I’ve been that person. I quit watercolor painting far too soon, stopped dancing too soon. I could say it’s because some teacher was discouraging, but the fact is I didn’t have the proper perspective. A teacher saying you won’t be successful at something is only problematic if your vision of success is the same as theirs. If I had believed success in dancing was the practice of dancing, no amount of negativity could have stopped me.
Staying in the game isn’t glamorous. It’s the kind of thing we ignore in the moment then, years later, write articles and books about. No one cares about underdogs until they’ve come crashing through the ceiling, and forced everyone to reassess their beliefs about the world. No one cares about Jeff Bezos in a tiny, dank office with the word “AMAZON” scrawled on a piece of paper over his desk. We care about billionaire Jeff Bezos and are mildly delighted by the humble origins. You’d think we’d have learned by now. The man was a success when he decided to stay in the game.
Staying in the game is holding on just a little longer. Staying in the game is sprinting for one second beyond the point you think you can. Staying in the game is punching the damn keys for another day, even if it’s only a hundred words. Staying in the game is telling yourself that good is coming. Staying in the game is repeating truth to yourself, again and again, even when it doesn’t feel quite true.
If you only take one of my points away, I think this might be the one.
When my visions of the future go from inspiring to overwhelming, I remind myself to stay in the game. When I see too many boxes left unchecked, I remind myself to just stay in the game. This mindset alone will carry you past the point where most people stop, and way beyond where you thought you would.
If a book/concept makes you less likely to put something out there, disregard it. And I do mean that, quite seriously. Anything that keeps you from making another play, however elegant or interesting, is not your friend. Guard your mind and time, because not all books are created equal, not all information is necessary and not all teachers explain things in a way that help you.
Pick and choose your plays. Then make a move. Stay in the game.
To conclude, success is much simpler than we make it.
We get mixed up when we start to force the ending, make the end the goal. You can do the same thing, with different mindsets, and get different results. Waking up at 5 am because it will lead you to success, is very different from getting up at 5 am because it is a success. Working out and eating well to get that body, is very different from working out and eating well because it’s good on its own. Savvy?
If you start really believing that success is in your back pocket, that success is practice itself and that success is about staying in the game, found in day to day living, your life will quietly change without you realizing it. One day, you’ll just wake up a different person. And you’ll probably be smiling.