What defines “success”? Personal success? Is it a certain income, a certain job title, marriage or some achievement? We often consider people around us “successful” by some measure, does that same measure apply, then, to us? Do those we call “successful” consider themselves successful? Or do we all measure success, of ourselves, and others, differently? With a different yardstick? In different increments or units?
Success is personal. What personal success is to one does not mean personal success to another. Only you can define what personal success is, for you. Whether you believe personal success is just being happy or that success is measured in wealth and material conquests, personal success takes commitment and a great deal of effort, devotion and even sacrifice.
But, really, what is success?
From anyone else’s perspective, under scrutiny, I may not look like much of a success. It took me eleven years to get my Bachelor’s Degree. I change jobs every five years. My marriage ended. I no longer own any real estate. I live in the house I grew up in, with my mom. Yet, as I see it, I’m a success! I have a rewarding career. I am healthy, thin, fit, and active. I have an exciting new business. I have many great friends. I’m in an exciting, loving, supportive and fulfilling relationship. I have freedom. I am happy.
What is happy? What does it mean when someone says “I am happy”? Like success, happiness is a word that means different things to different people. Sadly, I think many people use the word “happy” incorrectly. Happy, to some, means what success means; the big house, the important job title, the fancy car, the gobs of money, the trophy spouse, the smart kids. And yet, even with the acquisition, the achievement of all those things, most are still unhappy, most still strive for more success, they are empty and sad, even for all their perceived success.
For other, more enlightened people, true happiness is living in the present moment, mindfully, with gratitude, love, grace, and the ability to forgive. That’s all. And the beauty of true happiness is that anyone can achieve it, with commitment and a great deal of effort, devotion and even sacrifice.
Happiness is personal, it comes from within, it does not happen to us from the outside, it is not dependent on other people or on other things. Only you can create your happiness, only you can maintain your happiness. True happiness is a lot like yoga, it’s a practice, a daily practice. And like yoga, some days your practice will be better than others, but you keep on practicing, day after day, and there is always growth and improvement over the long term.
Personal success, then, is true happiness, and nothing more. Success, like personal happiness, is not something that happens to us, it isn’t something that can be bought, earned or married, it’s internal and grows from within through happiness, that grows with the diligent practice of mindfulness, presence, gratitude, love, and forgiveness.
Happiness is success. Success is happiness. I define mine, you define yours and whether we achieve either, truly depends on our understanding of the words and our practice of the concepts or principles we believe will bring us what we desire.
My cousin visited a couple of weeks ago and she, my mom and I went out to lunch. On the way to the restaurant, we somehow got onto the subject of winning the lottery. What would you do if you won a large jackpot? Some people say they would save the money, invest it wisely and live off the interest, others say they would spend it all fast and furiously. My cousin was of the latter mindset, she said she has it all planned out and that she would pretty much just enjoy it while it lasted. Which is what most big jackpot winners do, spend it all and then return to their previous lives with nothing but great memories and some awesome stories to tell. Fair enough. I’d buy shoes. And maybe a castle to keep them in. But you have to play to win.
I used to play the Lotto religiously. I’d purchase twenty draws in advance, the same numbers, and then, I’d never check the numbers to see if I won. I probably won the big jackpot, maybe even several of them, and never knew it. I stopped playing. You have to play to win.
During my cousin’s visit, we also had a discussion about buying things you don’t necessarily need. On impulse. My aunt, my cousin’s mom, had these two large, beautiful rooster figurines. When she passed, I somehow came into possession of these roosters. At that point in time, I lived in a small suburb of Sacramento, Fair Oaks, in “the Village”, where chickens roamed the streets and most residents had chickens as “pets”. We had chickens as pets. And my house was decorated inside and out with chickens, including these two roosters. That was over fifteen years ago and I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve moved since then. No more chickens, real or decorative. But, these two roosters have made move after move. Now, I really don’t have room for them, and, quite frankly, I’m sick to death of dusting them. So, my cousin, the garage sale genius that she is, came by to pick up some of our discards to sell at her next sale. Chickens included. My mom asked my cousin if she knew where my aunt had purchased the roosters. Of course, my cousin didn’t know, it was decades after she’d grown, left home and raised her own family, and decorated her own home. My mom has a way of asking (a lot) of questions that no one could possibly know the answers to. Often in rapid fire succession. Sometimes almost inquisition style. It’s her gift. We all agreed, knowing my aunt, that the roosters were probably an impulse purchase and we all had a good idea how my uncle probably reacted. On impulse purchases, my cousin mentioned that in her travels, she’d seen a doormat she wanted to buy for her mom that said “Ed, please leave the check under the mat.” She didn’t buy it, thinking she’d stop back by and do so, but never did. My aunt never got the doormat, so Ed didn’t leave her the winning check. I’m not sure my aunt even entered the Publishers Clearing House drawing, I’ll bet she did. You have to play to win.
Speaking of Ed and the Publishers Clearing House Drawing prize checks, Mom and I were having breakfast this morning when her phone rang. Her phone rings all the time. Actually, I swear there are twelve phones in the house, all with the ringer turned up as loud as possible. When someone calls, I swear the windows are going to shatter. I have my own “land line”, for work. The number is unlisted and the ringer is turned off. I don’t even know what my phone sounds like, but I’m sure I’d hate it. I haven’t given my “land line” number to anyone, ever, at all, so I know without a doubt that no one I would ever want to speak with will ever call me on that line. When my cell phone rings, and it is on silent all the time, too, so I’d have to actually see the incoming call, I look at the number and decide if a) its someone I want to speak with and b) if I want to speak with them right now, or if I might prefer calling them back at a more convenient time, for me. If it’s important, they’ll leave a message and I can decide if and when I’ll return the call. Mom answers almost every call. Except for the one that occurs every morning, like clock work, at breakfast time. When she has answered it in the past, it has been some recorded message trying to sell her new windows, siding, roofing, solar panels, and appliances, all financed by the utility company. Even if she understood the whole thing, she really isn’t in the market for any of that stuff. She has asked, on numerous occasions, to be removed from their call list, but to no avail. I’ve registered her number on the “do not call” registry, but we all know that’s only as good as the ability to enforce it. Which is zero. So, this morning, like every morning, the call comes. Mom picked up the phone, glanced at the incoming number, hit the answer button followed immediately by the end button. Then she remarked, jokingly, “that was probably Ed with my winnings for the Publishers Clearing House drawing.” I asked, a little sarcastically, “Did you enter?” No. Well, you have to play to win.
I’m not proposing you should play the lottery or enter drawings and contests, I’m saying that you have to play to win. That applies to whatever you want to happen in your life. If you want to be fit, you’ll have to play to win; work out hard, regularly, eat right, commit to a fit, clean lifestyle. Forever. No pill, no shake, no two-week celebrity diet, no celebrity doctor endorsed super food suggestion is ever going to make you thin, fit or healthy. It is a lifestyle. You can’t wish yourself fit just like you can’t expect the next visitor at the door to be Ed with a big fat check if you didn’t enter the drawing. You absolutely have to play to win.
If you want to find love and companionship, you can’t sit home and wish for it to happen. Fabio isn’t going to crawl off the cover of your Harlequin Romance novel and pull you into his arms. You’ll have to play to win. You need to go out, participate in your community, be visible and active and mingle. You need to increase your exposure to a lot of people to find the one. The Powerball jackpot won’t ever be yours unless you’ve bought a ticket or two. You’ll probably have to go out into the world and meet a few folks before you find your soul mate. Must play to win.
Perhaps you’re hankering for increased success financially. Unless you take active measures to increase your income and decrease your spending, it probably won’t happen. Unless you DO play the Lotto and you DO win, but, my friend, in case no one else has told you, the odds aren’t good. No one is going to just give you gobs of money for no reason. Chances are you don’t have a long, lost, rich uncle who died and left you his fortune. You have to play to win. You need to carefully plan, budget and commit to both if you want to begin to accumulate money.
Your next raise is likely to not quite match the rate of inflation unless you’ve played to win in your career, too. But you can’t rest on your career marketability laurels and hope to be offered more rewarding opportunities. You have to play to win. I am hard-pressed to think of a single career field that hasn’t changed dramatically as a result of computers and advances in technology. We, too, must evolve, change, adapt in order to remain relevant, let alone advance. We need to meet or match the same pace of technological advances in order to remain relevant in our careers. It is an ongoing and almost frenzied activity to keep abreast of technological advances, but you must, in order to be marketable. My (former) husband was, for a long time, in software sales, support and customization. He had his own business and did well for a number of years. During that time, Microsoft Windows came out, and for a very, very long time, he resisted. He stuck with DOS and recommended his clients do so as well. Until it was no longer viable, supported or an option. Once he finally migrated to Windows, kicking and screaming, he stuck with the oldest version supported and upgraded only when absolutely necessary. This was not a very sound practice for someone in the software industry. Better to move forward, embrace the new, and make well-informed and educated recommendations to clients than to stubbornly cling to the old, comfortable version of the software, missing out on the enhancements and the benefits and opportunities for efficiency and effectiveness in the new version. There is a popular ad campaign for teeth whitening products, “if you aren’t whitening, you’re yellowing”. I think this can be perfectly applied to doing what needs to be done to remain marketable in your career field. If you aren’t advancing with your field and with the technology within your field, you’re becoming irrelevant and unmarketable. You have to be in the game to score. You have to play to win.
No matter what it is in life you are making an effort to evolve in, you have to make the effort to obtain the result, without exception. You have to be invested. And, the more invested you are, the better your odds for success. I advise “all in” for everything in life you’d like to win, except the Lotto and other games of chance, of course, here, a dollar will do. But you do have to play to win.
Show me a man who knows balance in life; a man who works very hard, but knows the value of a enjoying the stillness of morning. A man who can perform any task offered him, however daunting, however physical, however long. A man who cherishes a few moments swinging in the hammock on the porch in the early evening just as the ravens pass overhead on their ritual path. Show me a man skilled in many trades and who can grow a garden where many struggle. Show me a man that knows he could earn far more by working longer hours, days, weeks, months, years, but knows that money won’t buy back the time he spent in toil, and so chooses a simpler, less extravagant lifestyle.
Show me a man with integrity; a man who will quickly admit his mistakes, even if it means less money in his pocket at the end of the day. A man who is honest about his feelings at any moment in time. A man accountable for every thought, action and deed. Show me a man that will do today what he says he will. Show me a man known for his good word because he has always lived up to his word. Show me a man that makes no excuses. Show me a man who looks for the best deal, but only if it is fair and honest.
Show me a man with wealth beyond measure; not a man with a big paycheck, solid portfolio, an important title, pricey real estate, a luxury automobile, for these are not true measures of wealth. The fickle economy, changes in technology, the volatility of the markets, can bring a man with tangible wealth to his knees in a moment. Show me a man with true wealth; a man without debt, a home that is paid for, a man who lives within his means, a man that knows the value of a dollar earned and a dollar saved, a man with a practical outlook on the future, a man that values what he owns, a man that has long standing relationships and a good name in his community, a man that is able to do any job, work hard, and be proud of his work at the end of the day.
Show me a man with compassion; a man who will open his home to those in need. A man who will teach someone disadvantaged the value of earning their keep, of saving a portion of their pay, of developing themselves so that they may become independent. Show me a man who will represent his friend in front of someone who seeks to take advantage of them. Show me a man that will listen to the stories of the old, the ambitions of the young, the concerns of a friend, the tears of a lover.
Show me a man with respect; a man who can live off the land but doesn’t gloat for his conquests. A man who understands the balance of nature and when the balance is being tipped, realizes it is better to have less this year to hopefully have more in the next. Show me a man who maintains a friendship with his high school English teacher. Show me a man who will take an elderly man fishing so his wife won’t worry.
Show me a man who is handsome; a man who doesn’t look like he walked off the cover of a magazine, but a man with a genuine smile. A man who cares for himself, his hair, his skin, his teeth, but not out of vanity. Show me a man with kind, smiling eyes and a playful grin. Show me a man that takes pride in his appearance and even more pride in his character.
Show me a man who is strong; not a man who works out at the gym to create muscles that will rarely, if ever, be used, other than to impress others. Show me a man who is strong enough to work incredibly hard, physically, all day, every day. Show me a man who can swing an ax, who can build a shelter single-handedly, who can fix anything and fix it right, a man who can climb a steep hillside, a man who can hunt for his own food and manage what he has claimed.
Show me a man with patience; a man who develops lasting friendships, a man who meets a woman at the wrong time and waits until it’s the right time. Show me a man who will work, save, then buy. Show me a man who will do with less to enjoy life more. Show me a man who will do without rather than compromise his savings.
Show me a man that knows how to communicate; a man who will be honest about his past, his present and his plans for the future. Show me a man who will patiently tell his lover what he likes, what he doesn’t. Show me a man who will listen before he speaks, and speaks that which is worth listening to. Show me a man who likes a lively debate, but not for the sake of triumph. Show me a man who can express himself without the constant use of explicatives. Show me a man that knows his turn in conversation. Show me a man with a kind, even tone, a man that speaks softly that he will be listened to, not a man that yells to be heard.
Show me a man that is intelligent; not a man with an accumulation of diplomas and degrees hung upon the wall that demonstrate only the completion of some curriculum. Not an intelligence measured by an institution, but an intelligence demonstrated in how he conducts his life. Show me a man that understands life, understands people, understands the world, from paying careful attention, remembering valuable lessons, applying practical wisdom, knowledge and discernment. Show me a man that learns a lesson, remembers it and applies it. Show me a man that can educate himself in anything to accomplish what must be done. Show me a man that knows himself.
Show me a man unlike any other; a man who can, by himself, throw a dinner party for eight, a man who can bake not just bread, but brioche, a man who has a tidy home. Show me a man who puts thought into every task, a man who builds his home so that his bedroom window has a unique view, that he may someday share that view with someone he adores. Show me a man who is able to think of the creation and also build it. Show me a man that doesn’t expect more of people, but inspires them to expect more of themselves.
Show me this man, the rarest of rare, an unexpected treasure, the man of my dreams. My dream come true.