Added On: Sunday, November 04, 2007

What does success look like?

Recently, I proposed a new blog-meme. A cold kept me from following through, but now Image by lusi on Stock Xchngprodigious amounts of orange juice have restored me, and the exercise, to life. As I pondered delving back into the concept of success, I realized I needed to split it in two.

First, there is my egalitarian, love-the-world, everyone-has-value concept of success, the one which encourages small victories, and assures people that no, they are not failures.

Then there is the more concrete definition of success: “the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence.”

It’s this second meaning that I want to explore as a goal.

So, here goes. Ahem.

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The Exercise:
Picture someone you think of as “successful”…

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Well…. Who *do* I know, that I think of as successful?

"Success" Image by lusi on Stock Xchng Many of the people I know are brilliant, creative, but struggling… some will reach those “success” standards of wealth and recognition, but they haven’t yet.

My grandparents come to mind, but they’d already reached “success” by the time I was born, and many of their means and methods of getting there aren’t as applicable in the modern world - analyzing them will tell me what I expect out of success, but not what getting there looks like.

There *are* two people I’ve known, both in the past ten years, who I think the label of “success” fits rather well — and they were reaching it in during the time I knew them.

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What is it about them that I see as successful?

Outside of a certain level of wealth, excelling in their careers and respect from their peers… They both have a certain level of confidence and comfort about them.

Workwise, they seem to have reached a tipping point of respect and promotion, so that no matter what happens with their company, they will move on and up, without much stress — and they like their jobs.

"Success" Image by lusi on Stock XchngThat same comfort and confidence is in their lifestyle. They aren’t “rich”, but they can afford all of what they need, many of the things they want, and have enough left over for savings. It allows them to pick and choose between the things they want, because what they are confident that what they don’t get now, they can get later - so they are comfortable *not* buying things.

There’s also a level of comfort with their relationships - relationships with family, friends, lovers. There are ups and downs, but the relationships are overall positive, and they feel confident about them.

They’re giving, charitable people - whether its to a recognized charity, or just helping people they know, personally, who are in need.

They’ve mastered the art of relaxation, even in stress. They spin and juggle the various plates in their lives, and don’t panic, even when china is splattering around them.

They dress well; I don’t mean that they have a huge designer wardrobe, but what they have is well made, comfortable (there’s that word again) and well cared for.

Both are culturally literate, had mastered several languages, worked abroad multiple times, and were otherwise people you’d consider well-rounded.

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What does their success look like, feel like, sound like?

It looks like a sunny, supportive smile, reinforced by steel. It feels like a lightly starched button down, a worn out T-shirt, overstuffed furniture. It sounds like the voice of confidence, music of all times and genres coming from an old but well tuned stereo system, and the ding ding ding of their car, warning them that their door is open. It smells like fresh laundry detergent, a subtle cologne, and the air freshener the bi weekly maid plugs in.

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How do they display their success?

In small ways, by just being themselves. By helping others. By.. being comfortable and confident in who and what they are, and their daily lives. They are freed by their success, in a way, freed to be themselves, and the best they can be in each moment.

"More Money" Image by lusi on Stock XchngThey aren’t ostentatious. Everything they have isn’t expensive. They often shop at Walmart and Sam’s club. They drive reasonable cars, and live within their means. If they put their success on display at all, it’s in the freedom with which they give to others, I think.

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What areas of their life does success touch?

With these two folks.. I think they’re successful in just about all of the areas of life.

Their career, finances, family, their friends, social life, their personal development — their achievements are recognizable across the board.

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What areas hasn’t *success* touched?

I think success, and the attitudes of success, have touched them in most ways. But they still have problems and challenges.

And maybe more importantly, they were not always a success, and not everything they’ve done (or currently do) is a success.

Both have been through divorce, large debts, bankruptcy. Both had to repair family relationships. One had a failed business in the past. Neither had a college degree. Both had health challenges, sometimes severe. One had grown up with a supportive family, the other was the child of an abusive, broken home, but neither had family capable of giving them a financial leg up.

Both had job, family and life crises in the time I knew them, too … and I watched them tackled those problems with that same level of comfort and confidence that I keep finding myself mentioning.

It’s pretty clear that (at least in my own mind) its those two factors (confidence and comfort) that both led to, maintains, and displays their success.

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So, what does this mean to me, in practical terms?

That my over all vision of “being a success” "Buy The World" image by lusi on Stock Xchngisn’t limited to wealth or social/career prominence, although those things are part of it. To me, success means achievement on a personal, emotional, spiritual and relationship level, as well as financial and career wise.

That’s important to know - because not everyone’s definition of success includes those things.

Another key to my concept of success is that I kept noting the confidence and comfort that my role-models of success exude. That gives me a concrete example to strive for, marks of attitude and approach that I can work on exhibiting now, and all along the path towards success. It gives me something to visualize and develop within myself, the concrete trappings of a successful attitude, as I define it within my own subconscious.

It is what success looks like, to me; a well rounded person, who approaches the world with confidence in who and what they are, as well as in what they do and have. They have a certain level of achievement, wealth, and status, but it is their comfort with themselves that is of primary importance to them.

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I’m sharing this exercise not because I think my results are earth shattering, or mind blowing – I realize it’s fairly rudimentary to most of the business oriented blogosphere.

I’m sharing it because I think it can be valuable to see someone else’s inner process. Observing someone else’s changing and shifting thoughts can illuminate our own process, shift our perspective, and lead us to new insights.

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MindTWEAK: So. What *does* success look like to you? ________________________________________________

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