My wife asked me recently if I thought I was successful. I thought about it for a minute and I said, “No…not yet.” August 17th was my two-year anniversary of being out on my own with my speaking/coaching business. In the past two years I have doubled the amount of speeches that I did before being solo. I actually have coaching clients, whereas before I just said I was coach but did not actually have anyone I was working with. I am married to a brilliant woman who loves the hell out of me and together we parent two adorable puppies, Kyra and Sophie (note: they are 4 and 6, but they will always be puppies). Jacqueline has a great job and with our combined incomes, we are able to live comfortably in a beautiful home built in the 1800’s. Oh, and I just wrote a book. But when asked if I am successful, I have the audacity to say, “no.”
I personally suffer from what’s known as ambition. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Maybe you have it, too. It’s a pretty cool thing. Here’s how it works, I think of something I think would be really cool and meaningful to do, and then I figure out how I can do it for a long time. I sometimes also try to figure out how to monetize it, though that is not always necessary or the purpose.
The brain is a fascinating place, however. There are two sides to everything. So, for me, what also comes along with ambition are the feelings of: not being successful, wanting to do or be more, and not being enough. It also means that sometimes I take my relationship and my beautiful home for granted – I do not prioritize them enough. It means that the idea of having children is even scarier than it already is for most because of my selfishness for what I want to be and do. I am sure I will eventually write longer posts about each of these things because they each deserve more time and words but to keep this post reasonable I am going to attempt to stick to one point – feeling successful.
We are all climbing a mountain. At the top is our ideal version success, our definition of forever happiness, our dreams. For few the peak is clear. They know exactly what they are striving for and what their end goal looks like. For most of us, however, the peak is covered in some light clouds. We have idea of what’s up there and what we want our lives to look and feel like, but for the most part we are climbing toward an idea of our ideal. The steps that we are taking today – gaining confidence, developing competence, getting promotions, hitting goals, shaking hands and kissing babies/developing connections – are all ways that show we are climbing.
The advice that I give others that I rarely, if ever, listen to myself is that every once in a while you must stop, turn around, and look at how far you have climbed. Take a moment and realize that you have done more than you thought you had. Maybe you have even done more than you thought you could. Treat yourself, pat yourself of the back, be proud of yourself for a moment. Then turn around and get back to climbing. Get back to climbing because settling is one of the worst things we can do in our lives and, since you have made it this far up I know you are capable of more. Keep climbing your mountain and try not to worry about where others are on their mountain. Comparing yourself to others too much is just not healthy and you don’t know their story, their background, or their struggles which highly influence where they started their climb.
For me, however, I just keep climbing. I have my head down and I refuse to recognize my success. I have no idea how far I’ve come and even if you told me how far I’ve climbed I’d be quick to point out that because of my privilege I was able to start at a higher elevation than many others. Because of where and how I was raised combined with the color of my skin and the fact that I’m a man, I got a free helicopter ride to a higher elevation where I then started my journey from. So let’s not applaud mediocrity, is how I feel.
Fortunately I have people in my life that force me to stop and think about what I have accomplished from time to time. I am grateful to these individuals and a lot of the time I try and believe what they say to me – but I get in my own way too much so I am not very good at that.
How about you? Are you successful? How do your determine whether you are or not? Who do you have on your team and in your life that supports and encourages you? Who reminds you to reflect on what you have accomplished?
We are all climbing our own mountain. But every once in a while let’s take a moment to turn around and look back at how far we have come. Look back at it. Be proud of yourself – allow yourself to feel successful for a little while. Success is not only at the top, it has been occurring throughout your journey…whether you chose to admit it or not. Whether I chose to admit it or not.