Success is more likely and enjoyable when it is as personal as you are.
“Success” is the third most searched word on Google; right behind sex and money. The concept of becoming successful in life or business is such an all-consuming desire in our lives – some would say obsession – that more has been written on how to attain it than any other subject.
You would think, therefore, that when you combine the desire to be successful with the billions of words written about how to achieve success, it would be fairly easy to attain. But it’s not. And that’s because, all too often, we allow others to define our success.
The vast majority of those who say they want to be successful and are willing to pay the price to achieve it, fail. Why? Because most of what is said and written about success is intended to get you to buy into a vision of success as they define it, and the actions they say you need to take to be successful. It’s “they” from beginning to end.
This is an erroneous approach to achieving success that, as often as not, leads to failure because it’s not “you.” True success is not determined by what others want you to “buy,” but by what you own as a part of what you are. Success comes as the by-product of a life lived from the inside out; not from the outside in. Success comes from internalized ownership of what you want to be and a determined drive to achieve it. Success should be yours, not something someone else has tried to sell you.
It may seem incongruous, but the single greatest impediment to achieving success is the inability of the person seeking it to independently define just what success means to them. When we allow others to define our success, we are, in effect, abdicating control of our lives. Think about that. How can we ever be successful if we allow others – parents, teachers, bosses or peers – to define that success and the actions we should take to achieve it? Obviously, if we don’t personally define it for ourselves, we’ll never know how to achieve it, or even if we achieved it.
It seems that everyone has their own ideas about success and we are barraged with briefcases full of definitions, some no better than mere notions. It starts with parents who lovingly, yet persistently apply their image of success on their children. Be it sports, grades, competition with peers or the schools we should attend, we are constantly bombarded with the success expectations of others. The intentions are good, but the results can be disastrous.
We’ve all heard the horror stories of parents who push their children to achieve “success” as a proxy for their own perceived failures: the mother who literally thrusts her little girl into beauty contests; the dominant father who takes his kid out of high school to be a pro golfer; the star quarterback driven by the expectations of others.
Parents like these and many other adults go through life leading the famous lives of quiet desperation and unhappiness because they are led to think of themselves as “failures.” In most cases the perceived failure is in reality only a failure to live up to someone else’s expectations of success. (Or maybe they finally recognize what a wasted life it is to be a banker!).
There are legions of “successful” people who demonstrate dissatisfaction with their success by committing seemingly strange acts of personal self-destruction. This comes from either not having a strong enough personal self-worth to define their own brand of success, so they feel “guilty” and become trapped in a quest for success that fits the definition of others, but not theirs.
I would not attempt to define or quantify success for you, but I do encourage anyone to do so on your own terms. I have discovered that no matter how you define success or what level of success you may seek, the philosophies, techniques and actions are the same whether you define success as being the very best bus driver in the world or the very best fighter pilot.
The first step to achieving real success is to understand that allowing others to define and structure that success is the shortest road to failure. The first thing to do is forget everything every one has ever told you about success. Clean your mind of the expectations of others. Ignore my ideas of success along with all the other ego-saturated books of business leaders. Certainly all the ideas you’ve heard about success are good background, but they only serve that purpose.
What you need to do is call a meeting of your most trusted advisors; those who you know for certain care about you and your success above all others. So, call a me, myself, and I meeting. Ask them to help you define what success really means to you. Don’t let them get away with any BS here. This is a once-in-a- lifetime opportunity to be completely and totally honest, so don’t let them miss the opportunity.
From this point, it may seem like defining your own brand of success is a simple process, but it is not. First of all you have to eliminate everyone else’s definition of success; create your own definition. Defining success is difficult because so many confuse the rewards of success with success itself and they are not the same. Ask anyone to define success and most often they will mention fame, fortune and power as the preeminent criteria for success. It is important to recognize that these are the rewards for a successful career, not success itself. Success is about what you achieve, not what you receive. Ask yourself: Does the achievement of fame and fortune make me successful? Or do I achieve fame and fortune because I am successful?
It is incorrect to define success by identifying the rewards of success. For example, I have always felt it to be a poor definition of success to say my goal is to achieve fame as an actor. My viewpoint is that success is more fulfilling when defined by deciding to become a great actor. The point is you have a much better chance to become famous if you first become a great actor than you do if your goal is only to be famous. It’s a mistake to start a business to get rich. Start a business to take advantage of an opportunity others do not see, if you do that, riches will follow. Take on a job to be the best at doing it, don’t target that promotion, target those things that will earn you the promotion.
And the moral of the story is …
When you take it upon yourself to define your own brand of success you have your one and only opportunity to take control of your future. Success is the happiness you achieve by knowing that you have done what you wanted to do, not what others defined for you to do. When you have defined your own brand of success you free yourself to be yourself. Unlike others who have allowed others to define them, you become free of peer pressure and expectations of others. You have the freedom to own your future. This freedom will give you the opportunity to be what you want to be and that is the best definition of success. And the moment you define it, is the moment you’ll get closer to it.