What is success to you? Money? “Freedom”?
Doing something meaningful? What is that?
There’s lots of reasons to chase success, but there’s one they don’t talk about.
We live in a culture where we build cults of personality around our most successful people. We put their inspirational quotes on our walls. We share “motivational” memes on Facebook. We watch Rocky montages every morning.
Well, some of us…
The point is, we’re very comfortable fetishizing the hard work that goes into success. We know it doesn’t come easy. We know success is a grind. We love the distraction of the hustle.
But there’s one aspect of success that we all know, somewhere deep inside, that we don’t say out loud:
We all know success is empty.
Why Success Means Nothing By Itself
How many athletes have broken records and won championships in their twenties, only to fade into complete obscurity by their thirties? How many Silicon Valley startups have raised millions, just to shrink in the shadow of the giants worth billions?
Success is just a moment. If you’re pursuing success for its own sake, you’re putting in blood, sweat, and tears for a brief moment—which will pass just in time for you to start thinking ahead to the next thing.
Not even getting to the moon will get you far enough if the experience of the various Apollo astronauts who suffered from depression and other disorders after returning from space is any indication.
After you’ve done that, what’s left for you to set your sights on?
What about Trump? “Congratulations on your success at winning the presidency…Now. Fix all this…” If success to him is just becoming president, he’s in for a long four years.
Success is just like a game, where getting past that bad guy throwing lightning bolts at you just lands you at the start of the next level.
Success Can Ruin Your Life
A simple formula for success is: Success = Hard Work + Narrow Focus.
No matter what it is you are chasing, success is the hamster wheel. It’s not about doing something dynamic and magical each day, it’s about consistently taking action every day.
We get that an Olympic athlete would derail nearly every other experience in her life in order to pursue gold, but what do we give up in order to pursue this thing we call success?
Well, it all depends on what it means to you. Many people chasing success for the first time with “nothing to lose” will gladly “give it all,” but how much is someone willing to give once they’ve already got it good?
A buddy in Silicon Valley said to me, “It’s funny, all these guys chasing more deals, more money, but someone will always have more than them…They’ve never feel successful.”
And if it’s more of that type of success they seek, they never will.
If you watch that Rocky video you see that most of it isn’t footage of Rocky scoring the knockout punch, but about over months running along the road and training himself to win.
We know instinctively that success isn’t about where we are headed but about who we are becoming, but how do we keep reminding ourselves to get behind this illusion of success as this “thing” of any meaning and instead, bring our own meaning?
Why Meaning Is The Only True Success
Even if you hate your job, you can choose to see that it’s the way that you support your family and that is very meaningful to you.
No matter whether you are headed to the moon or simply shooting for promotion, success doesn’t lie in reaching your destination, but, you’re literally doing it right now, every day.
Success is not about what it will be like to get what you want, but feeling a great sense of meaning in taking the actions that keep making you more successful every day.
That begins on getting clear on what you want, or, even better, in my system, simply figuring out the vision that you are moving towards and every day taking just one small step forward.
Living this way, success is not about reaching some mythical level where you can claim you have “made it,” it’s about finding great meaning in the journey of success, knowing where you’re headed, why you’re headed there, and living your own sense of meaning.
Success to some is “not yet being dead.” What makes success meaningful to you?