How do you categorize something with the title ‘How To Be Successful’? Do you file it under ‘Goals’? I mean, success is all about accomplishment, right? Or maybe you should put it under ‘Health’. Good health, to many, is a number one priority in life. What about ‘Relationships’? Doesn’t a strong relationship make for a better life?
As we set out to define how to be successful and touch on what I believe makes for a successful human being, we have to keep in mind that success is truly in the eye of the beholder. So it’s not about a specific prize, a ‘holy grail’ if you will, but the ability to successfully pursue those things in your life that bring you the greatest purpose and satisfaction.
Bill is a forty something entrepreneur from Chicago, raised in a fairly average home, with average parents and an average lifestyle. Bill did OK in school and even made it halfway through college. After two years of hitting the books hard, Bill decided that school had played its part in his life and it was time to move on. So at the expense of his parents peace of mind, Bill dropped out and started looking for work.
Fast forward by about 20 years and you will see Bill, working in one of his many offices, running his successful international company that he built for the ground up. To put it plainly, Bill is a wealthy man. Not just financially, but Bill has managed to maintain good physical health, land the love of his life and still put aside time for his precious children. Bill is no superman, but he knows what he wants and is dedicated to living that lifestyle that fits his idea of success. It’s not about fame or fortune, but staying true to his clear vision of what life should be like for him and his family.
John, also from Chicago and pushing the same forty year old status, is not so happy in his current situation. Coming from a similar background, but managing to make it all the way through college, John now finds himself struggling to get by.
About ten years back, John got divorced. A marriage that was doomed from the start, this relationship defined Johns inability to sense a healthy situation. From the middle management position that brings him zero satisfaction, to the devastating debt he’s accrued over years of trying to buy his own happiness, John is lost when it comes to defining his desires and properly pursuing them through the necessary channels. Not only is John not successful, but he’s depressed by the fact that he may only be half way through his lackluster life.
One cold winter morning Bill received a phone call. It was his accountant and Bill could tell that the news was not the good kind. “What is it Joe?” Bill asked his CPA. “I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this, Bill, but your company has gone bankrupt.” “What?! How can this be?! There were no signs of this. Last quarter alone brought us an increase of 15%. Where is this coming from?”
For the next 30 minutes, Joe explained how some of his employees had been embezzling money from the company for the last 2 years. They managed to doctor the books so the stolen funds did not seem to be missing. By the time they were caught, the companies financial infrastructure had been deteriorated and could do nothing but collapse. Bill was both devastated and broke.
Around that same time, John had found out that after a distant, wealthy relative had passed away, he had come into a small fortune and a large piece of property. John was elated! He felt that all his troubles were over and he could finally enjoy life. He quit his job (burning bridges with his spiteful departure) and moved into his new, much larger, home in the suburbs. John was finally successful…or so he thought.
A year has passed…
Both Bill and John had now had time to ease into their new situations. The sting of Bill’s great fall had dulled and John’s new found happiness was starting to dwindle.
Shortly after Bill lost everything, he started working in the same company that John had left. Coming in as a cashier, Bill quickly moved up the ladder as assistant manager and then manager. To help lighten his load, Bill’s wife began working part time. Their kids were in school so they could manage all of this without missing out on the life they previously enjoyed. Bill valued family above all else and he was not about to let these unfortunate circumstances take away time with his wife and kids.
From the very get go, John had managed to put a massive dent into his new found fortune. Going on spending sprees, buying all the things that used to seem out of reach, John was determined to debunk the idea that money can’t buy happiness.
He also began hanging out in bars as he hoped to meet Mrs. right. Using the phrase, “Drinks are on me!” time and time again, John was constantly trying to attract others with his fake confidence and half hidden insecurities. But when rejection seemed even more prevalent, John slowly found his way back into his discouraged state of mind.
5 years later…
About two years after starting his position as a cashier and then quickly moving up, Bill had learned everything he possibly could about the business he was working in. Not willing to settle for less, Bill began the process of starting his own company that would sell the same products, but to an International audience. Before too long, Bill and his family had found themselves right back in their sweet spot, opportunities abound.
John’s situation was not quite the same. Managing to waste most of is willed wealth in the first 3 years of his obtaining it, John was now looking for work to pay down some of the debt. With no other choice but to sell his home, John started apartment hunting in the city and crawling back to his old job. Unfortunately, after his bridge burning departure, instead of re-entering as a manager, John had to start back at the bottom, ringing up customers as he pined over what went wrong.
Interestingly enough, Bill had been the one to buy John’s house in the ‘burbs. By that summer, there were fresh flowers in the garden, clean cut grass and the sense that a heart transplant had taken place in that home. Even the neighbors seemed happier as their new next door tenants finally did justice to the beauty of that big old house.
What is success?
People often say that success is a state of mind. That if you want to be satisfied with life, be satisfied with life. But this doesn’t deal with the fact that a desired destination requires the proper mindset and discomfort in the current state. Not that we can’t be satisfied every step of the way, but that if that satisfaction becomes too comfortable, we risk standing stagnant, never venturing forth into the world of possibility.
John was all about comfort. A man of the moment, he never planned for the future or learned from his past. John’s vision of success was extremely insignificant as he accepted his new found fortune as a quick fix for boredom and low self-esteem.
While John spent a lot of his time figuring out how he was going to spend his next dollar, he missed out on the big picture. He couldn’t seem to visualize the pitiful life he lived. He was oblivious to his lack of relational connection. He mistook money for a brief moment of fun, while great opportunity floated on by.
Bill, on the other hand, was less interested in when his next lunch break was and more so in the possibilities that were right around the corner. He fed off the love of his family and never grew restless as he worked hard to pull himself back up. He enjoyed each moment, but couldn’t help be aware of a much bigger picture.
Where John could see his job as nothing more than a way to pay his bills, Bill was taking every opportunity to learn from his new circumstances. Neither one was given more from the start, but while John was lost in his own sea of self-medicating escapism, Bill knew nothing more than a healthy, happy life.
To answer the question, ‘How To Be Successful’, we have to see the key ingredient to success. It’s our mindset that makes or breaks our ability to succeed. It’s our comfort or discomfort in different circumstances that determines our direction. Just like John could no more be successful than then sky could be orange, Bill was incapable of settling for less than success. For Bill, it wasn’t a matter of thinking through each situation and determining which way to fork when following the road to greater opportunity, but instead it was his natural instinct that led the way. Just like a cat could never be comfortable in water, neither could Bill just sit in a situation that failed to bring him and his family closer to their own personal goals.
10 Keys To A Successful Human Being
I wrote a guest post on this at Pick The Brain called ‘10 Traits of a Successful Human Being‘, if you’d like to go further with the topic, but here are 10 more tips to expand on my points.
- Know How To Be Happy: If you don’t know the ingredients of a complicated recipe, I’d suggest that you find them before you start cracking open eggs. If you are unable to be happy right where you are (not necessarily satisfied, but happy), than you will have a hard time reaching your goals. Distraction is one of our greatest deterrents to success and few things take away our focus more than being unhappy.
- Know How To Motivate Yourself: No one is going to push you harder or more effectively than yourself. It is up to us to light our own internal fires and push ahead with vigor. We need to know the ins and outs of our deepest desires, the triggers to our forward motion. Dreams are made and goals are set, but with out proper self-motivation, we’re dead in the water.
- Know how to love and be loved: We assume that because we have feelings, we know how to enjoy a healthy relationship, but anyone who has enjoyed a successful one, knows it’s a lot of hard work. If we are unable to enjoy those around us, how can we consider ourselves a success. There are many millionaire misers out there who are no more successful than a homeless person sleeping on the streets.
- Know that the steps to success come one at a time: In this hectic 21st century society, it is so easy to be deceived into thinking that taking on the World has to happen all at once. The fact is, this mentality does nothing more than overload us with busyness. To be successful we need to be efficient in our pursuit of goals and a deluge of to-dos is not going to get us there.
- Know the value of JUST ENOUGH: John never knew exactly what he wanted. All he knew was that he never had it. Bill, on the other hand, always new his sweet spot in life and rarely wandered far from this place. Being successful in life isn’t about how much we have, but how close we are to having JUST ENOUGH.
- Know how to deal with negative feedback: Whether it be constructive criticism or hateful slander, we can be assured that our road to success will be bumpy as we endure the blows of those around us. We can’t afford to be unprepared. Motivation turns into momentum, but improperly filtered feedback will stop us dead in our tracks.
- Know how to relax: As important as motivation, rejuvenation is certainly a key to success. Knowing how to get a good night’s sleep as well as reaching a relaxed state in the heart of a stressful situation is crucial for both current satisfaction and future destination.
- Know how to get out of your comfort zone: One of the greatest deterrents for success is our inability to breach the boundaries of our comfort zones. Fear of the unknown, coupled with a soft, un-calloused psyche, we see no other option, but to stagnate.
- Know how to avoid self-destructing: We often have the perfect plan in our heads as we start our journey of success. We base our future actions on what we believe is right around the corner. But what happens when things go much differently? How do we react when stage 2 can’t happen because stage 1 took us in a different direction? We must remain flexible and ready to adjust our course when necessary. We can’t control life, but we can control our reaction to it.
- Know that it’s never to late to change your life: Whether we’ve been stuck in a hole all our lives or have just recently fallen into one, there’s no time like the present to dig ourselves out and make the move toward our own brand of success. To know how to be successful is to know that tomorrow is ALWAYS a new day.
John’s vision was anything but robust. Easily distracted by activities of insignificance, John could never truly know a life of success. He was condemned by a minute mindset and falsely established idea of happiness. John wasn’t unsuccessful, he was completely blind to it.
Bill may have seen his days both on the top and on the bottom, but as far as he was concerned, it was all apart of the journey. Never seeking a definite destination, Bill only desired wisdom, good health and strong relationships with those around him. For Bill, success was a mindset that turned into a positive physical outcome, not a single action that resulted in riches. You could take away Bill’s achievements, but you could never separate him from his passion for prosperity.
“Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” ~ Albert Einstein
If you want to delve deeper into this question of how to be successful, I would encourage you to check out these additional articles:
- 5 Fundamentals for Success in Life
- When Success Becomes Meaningless, It’s Time to Drop Out
- Re-Centering: Finding Your Way Back To The Life You Meant To Live
- Sink or Swim
- The Personal Development Dilemma: Striving Vs Self-Acceptance
- What is YOUR value and how do you MAXIMIZE it?
- Personal Development Roadblocks – “The Situation”
- How To Start A Small Business
- The Tradeoffs Of Owning Your Own Business Vs Working A Day Job
- Ask For What You Want