You probably have an idea about what success might mean…
You might have a mental vision of what it will look like when “it” arrives in your life.
Certainly, it’s different for everyone.
With that preface, I am going to venture a guess that you really haven’t got an image of success in your mind and that you rarely have in the past.
I know I sure didn’t.
- Part of the lack of vision was in linguistics.
- Part was in logic.
- Part was in definitions.
- Part was in prejudices. (No, not the black and white kind)
And the unveiling is humbling…and necessary.
For most everyone, “success” is a nebulous cloud of semi-random thoughts and half beliefs related to either wealth, fame or admiration of some kind.
Perhaps for you, you might have had fleeting thoughts of finally getting the career recognition you’ve been working so hard for.
Everyone needs “recognition” to the point where some crave what they lack or want more of…
Perhaps you’ve had images of earning a “lot of money.”
Perhaps you have fantasized about wanting to find the girl (or guy, I’m equal opportunity) of your dreams.
Then in the back of your mind…you might start a family, purchase your own home, buy the foreign sports car you’ve wanted since you were a teenager, or reach any number of other personal accomplishments.
Are any of those things success?
Are any of those things related to success in some way?
What IS success and why does everyone want it until a certain point (which I will come to shortly)…and at THAT specific point, they instantly and in the moment decide that they don’t “want it.”
Now THAT is interesting…
There’s a lot of ways people enunciate a moment’s set of images in the mind, but they usually come down to a sentence like,
“I’d rather be happy than successful.”
“…well for me success is happiness.”
…hearing sentences like that are embarrassing.
Before we go any further, if someone has it in their mind that success is indeed happiness, then they are on a collision course for a lot of UNhappiness and very little success.
DEFINITION: Success is a typically (but not always) long sequence of thoughts and actions that ultimately cause a “positive” result or repeating results….stemming from the actions taken.
Happiness is a feeling.
It would be nice if feelings were consistent and predictable and subject to processes, but in real life, they aren’t.
Happiness, at times, can be triggered by actions you take on a success journey. Those feelings of happiness can also be random, or caused by many other things other than pursuing goals.
Similarly, feelings of happiness can happen on the way to the dentist.
What is so critical to know about “feelings”? …
Watching the baby sleep that your wife just gave birth to could trigger an emotion of joy, which people will interpret as “happy.”
But certainly (for the guy) there is no success here, unless the man truly believes that his act of …procreation… was something he would like to define as “success.” …and if so…it’s time for that boy to get therapy.
Certainly the WOMAN who lived for nine months and now has many more utterly committed months and years could argue that this experience was a success…a journey of many actions and experiences ending up with a positive result…yep, that’s success. But it’s hers…not his.
Success can be gender specific…
Some people say they “have a happy life.”
I believe what they often mean is, “I have a life free of conflict.”
I run into a lot of people who have a lot of conflict in their lives and are definitely angry, hurt and in pain but they claim to “be happy.”
We could break that belief…but if they aren’t paying a heavy coaching or therapy fee, that series of conversations will not likely be heeded.
Freedom of conflict is not happiness, it is the absence of possible rejection, resistance and significant and meaningful interactions.
For now, realize that you don’t want to go bursting bubbles.
A little illusion can go a long way in the right contexts.
Happiness can intersect with success, just as it’s possible that it doesn’t at any moment in time.
The fact is that you would ideally experience happiness while “achieving success.”
By example, a person working toward their goals, their meaning in life, their legacy perhaps…they certainly could be happy, or not, at the same time.
They could be on their success journey, someone they love dies, be proud of their journey but sad or depressed that the person they love has died.
Many people believe you can only experience one feeling or emotion at a time. But that isn’t true. You can be happy and depressed in the same moment, for hours, days or even experience both emotions at the same time for periods of time.
“I’d rather be happy than depressed.”
“I’d rather be happy than have money….”
The two (in either case) aren’t necessarily related.
For me…success is pretty broad in scope and depth.
For example, I don’t want to have one “successful book.” I want to have a number of successful books. (Breadth)
I don’t want to have a book sell a lot of copies if it’s junk. I want to write stuff that matters. (Depth and Reputation)
But that’s me.
And what IS a “successful book” anyway?
- A book that sells 100,000 copies?
- What if it sold 100,000 worldwide but not in the USA?
- What if 100,000 is the magic number for success, but your book only sold 99,000 copies and the publisher went under from other projects and you gave up all rights to the book years ago?
Is it a successful book, or would it have been?
Definitions are important in life. In fact, people MUST define things in life to UNDERSTAND and be successful and they MUST define things in life to be happy, and the two are simply lines on a graph.
I’ve been looking for a new home for some time.
I’ve put offers on a few homes.
I set a number.
…not going to go higher than that number.
But what if the bank or seller came back and said, “wait we will go dollar X,” and that dollar is $10 higher than my maximum.
How firm is that definition now?
My guess is I will cave my definition (for $10?!) and give them the extra money for coffee…
The point, of course, is the definition of “maximum price” was an illusion.
So too, success and happiness are both without iron-clad definitions.
And they are extremely difficult terms to define….
What are some parameters to define “success”? …
How Do You Define Success?
People regularly come up to me and say, “Man you have been successful.”
I think that’s very nice, but I also think that I have yet to hit the vast majority of my life goals. I don’t want to leave this planet with only what I have accomplished to date. THAT would be a disappointment…if there were an afterlife to be disappointed from….
What people are really saying is, “Wow you are more successful than me and that’s cool,” and that might be true…but of course I don’t have definitions yet (we’ll get to that), so in the hypothetical future conversation…I don’t actually know what that means.
What IS an appropriate response?
“Thank you?” Certainly not.
“Hey Kev, you’re smarter than me.” “Thank you.”
Nope, that doesn’t work…
For you, it might be different.
Perhaps you have a different vision of what success means to you.
Most people experience success in certain facets of life.
These are either areas they excel in, master or are proficient at.
And that is important.
But I’m not sure that captures success, either.
People often put the word “successful” next to a person’s name. “Paul McCartney is successful.” No question that’s true. But his choice of his last wife didn’t turn out to be so successful. Does that mean HE is not successful?
And What Would the Objective Parameters BE for a PERSON to BE Successful?
It’s an important point for a couple of reasons.
I’ll take you in the back door before opening the front….
I think it’s fair to say that just about everyone has parts of their life that are royally screwed up.
In fact, I’ll go further and expose the secret to you.
All people you and I believe to be successful, probably ARE successful…AND they are screwed up SOME”WHERE” in their life as well….just like you.
So having their sh… together is not a criteria for success.
It’s another attribute like happiness that can describe someone, but doesn’t describe success.
Someone with their sh…together could describe some successful people….and it could describe some failures as well…
Now, let’s go in the side door…
Having come from a decade of being a therapist overlapping with two decades of being in different kinds of businesses, some “successful,” some not….
…I’ve met a lot of people. A lot of fascinating people.
Generally speaking, the interesting ones were those who “were successful.”
But what is MY definition of success?
I’ll tell you later.
Right now I want to figure out what yours is.
Nothing is more boring than someone who does nothing well and then aspires to be good at nothing.
…AND they are screwed up.
I like success with my screwed up person as much as I like Splenda with my Coffee. Coffee is still coffee without splenda and Success is still success with or without being screwed up in some areas of life.
What can we learn from the paradoxical success of Britney Spears? …
The Paradox, or..the “Example”…
…Which brings me to Britney Spears.
Without question this hot girl is a success story. And without question, she IS successful. In the entertainment and recording industry, she has accomplished what very few people will ever accomplish. AND she is representative of just how screwed up someone can get and still be incredibly successful.
And I don’t mean screwed up in any non-human way. She is essentially normal…and normal… is… screwed up.
“Oh yeah but I’m not like Britney, I’d never do x, y, z…like SHE does…” and my first response is…
If you don’t, research Obedience to Authority and find out what I mean…most people WILL do just about anything.
You would, I would.
You do, I do.
Not all of it, but then she isn’t as neurotic as you and I in our less photographed moments.
You think….that I think…that you and I are more screwed up than that girl?!
Not so sure one way or the other…I know I’m not smart enough to self analyze and I’m definitely smart enough to recognize when everything someone does is captured on video in contrast to you and me, who are only on some footage.
In fact, think about the times you’ve blown up, screamed and yelled, smacked someone, got ripped, and no one took a photo. Same thing, except there were photographers where she was.
I know, you’re shaking your head about your SELF and thinking, “But Kev IS right about a lot of other people I know.”
I propose: “Normal” really means…screwed up… and not yet captured on film being seen by OTHERS …screwed up.
She has mastered at a young age many important success factors. She has mastered what you want to master in SOME facets of life.
And she continues to be screwed up…in her own way…just like you.
And of course, if she can match how screwed up everyone else is, then indeed her achievements are all the more impressive.
If she wasn’t normal, I mean screwed up, then her successes wouldn’t be all that impressive.
“Headline: Well Adjusted Person Succeeds at Selling 50,000,000 Albums”
If someone sells 50 million records, I promise they are seen as screwed up. Guaranteed.
Can I offer a brief opinion of Britney’s talents…
Although the girl can move, and when she cares, she can look pretty damn good, and she has a persona onstage that can be infectious, but…she can’t sing a note and…. she IS remarkably successful, because she worked hard, was focused for extended periods of time and followed the processes that ultimately created her success.
She deserves her accolades.
And I stink at throwing stones unless someone is intentionally unkind or evil.
In fact, she IS the poster girl for achievement IN SPITE OF x,y,z.
None of this excuses anything that causes another person harm, especially their kids, but the fact is that the little hottie with the painful voice is a lot more like you and I than we’d like to admit….except we haven’t busted butt to to sell 50 million albums.
This is the part where they chime in, “Yeah but I’d rather be happy and normal than successful,” or “I’d rather be happy than have money.”
See how that all works?
What is it that people believe about themselves? …
Self Success Beliefs
The fact is the general populous believes that they themselves are “stable” by comparison to the people they see on television or at the movies.
Then they see themselves as having accomplished far less.
They then conclude (cause/effect) that “they” are unhappy, BECAUSE they appear unstable by contrast to themselves.
…and THEN they look at another aspect of the successful person’s life….their success for example…and tie the whole thing into the great PACKAGE OF EXCUSES FOR FAILURE.
“I’d rather be X than Y.”
Next time you catch yourself saying that, work under this assumption: X and Y have nothing to do with each other.
Bite your tongue and put the Excuse Factory back in it’s box and stop whining.
And people do whine and grumble. They have problems a, b, c and when they get their heads together they will go out and make it.
No….they won’t…not then….not ever.
They suffer from depression, bipolar, alcoholism, and they do nothing but bitch. They are ABJECT failures in spite of mental illness and addictions.
Successful in spite of mental illness and addictions.
So we have no excuses for lack of success.
IF BRITNEY SPEARS CAN DO IT WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH….the whiner…
KEY FUTURE POINT: Did you also see that talent is NOT required for success in the field you are in? I’m coming back to that next week.
Britney didn’t succeed in music because she could sing, I swear with Darwin as my witness, she can’t.
You don’t NEED talent to succeed in your field.
So never whine that someone else has talent and you don’t so that’s why you didn’t succeed.
Think: Britney. (Someone go invent the bumper sticker and poster for all this now if you want to get rich…)
OK, that’s for next week.
- Successful people achieve.
- They complete.
- They finish.
- They persist.
- They continue.
- They hold their emotions in check in the face of being told they can’t sing.
- They are resilient.
And we love them at best or find them fascinating at worst, in spite of their illnesses. And we should, because there are BIG lessons to learn from Britney Spears.
3 Key Success Points to take home …
KEYPOINT: You don’t have to your head all that together to succeed in at least a NUMBER of facets in life.
KEYPOINT: You don’t have to have talent to succeed.
KEYPOINT: You don’t have to be an addict or a mental illness to fail…you can succeed, easily, IN SPITE OF addiction or mental illness.
Britney Spears is not an enigma.
She is representative.
She’s one of those people that are looked down upon and the last statement is, “I’d rather be happy than rich.”
And the most important KEYPOINT?????
i.e….. what that person is REALLY SAYING is,
“I’m an utter failure in life and I don’t want people to see that, and I’m fortunate that my life isn’t on display or else they would see how much of a failure I am and I’d be embarrassed. ….and to deflect it all, I will tell you I am happy, especially when I’m not because if I tell you I’m unhappy I’d have to try and be successful ….and that’s a lot of work…so I’m a double failure…”
OK, read that again.
Everyone can relate to that.
Everyone has challenging lives in some way.
Without question, some far more challenging than others.
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