I once met a guy who started an online tech business in 2009 and ended up selling it a few years later for around $8,000,000 dollars.
He didn’t think he was Successful.
Me – “You really don’t feel Successful?”
Him – “Not really. I’ve made a lot of money, sure. But it wasn’t until after I sold the very thing I loved doing most that I realized just how much money didn’t really matter to me.”
I once watched an episode of “Inside the Actor’s Studio” that featured Dave Chappelle. Dave was telling his story about his life: Where he’d come from, what his challenges were, and how he ended up becoming arguably the greatest comedian in the world. At one point, he started talking about a conversation he had with his father. He told his father that he wanted to move to New York City so that he could pursue his dream of becoming a professional Comedian.
“Listen. To be an actor is a lonely life. Everybody wants to make it, but you might not make it.”
“Well, that depends on what ‘making it’ is Dad.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you’re a teacher. If I can make a teacher’s salary doing comedy, then I think that’s better than being a teacher.”
We have a guy who sold his company for $8,000,000 and didn’t feel Successful.
Dave Chappelle said that, if he could just earn a teacher’s salary doing comedy, that he’d consider his life to be a Success.
Why the difference? How come the first guy, who earned quite a lot of money in his life, didn’t feel successful, but Dave Chappelle earning a teacher’s salary would have been perfectly happy?
The first guy didn’t have a clear idea of what Success was for him. Dave did.
I used to be like the first guy. I had a very general idea of what Success meant to me, but it was never something I took the time to actually pinpoint and completely figure out. As a result, I felt like I was in limbo all the time because, even though I didn’t realize it, I really had no idea whether I was Successful or not.
When I think about the stereotypical quest for Success, I always picture this vision of a person crawling on all fours chasing a wad full of money dangling from a string on a stick that’s being pulled slowly away from them each time they get a step closer, because whenever we hear the word Success, the first thing that comes to mind is money. Money, and things. If we can just get lots of money and lots of things, that means we’re Successful.
However, everyone is different. And, for some people, money and things don’t mean anything. Everyone really is different.
So then, what is Success? Everyone wants it. Everyone does everything they can to catch it. If we think we have it, we feel incredibly satisfied and happy. If we feel like we haven’t gotten it yet, we tend to live anxiously, nervously, and tensely until we DO get it.
Just last week, I met with my friend Liz for coffee. We started talking about people following their passions, working in careers they love, etc. She said she didn’t really enjoy what she was doing, and that she didn’t feel like she was successful as a result.
Our conversation went like this:
Me – “In order for you to feel successful, what would have to happen?”
Her – “Well, I’d like to do something different. But to be honest, I haven’t really thought about the answer to that question before.”
Me – “How can you know whether or not you’ve found something if you don’t even know what you’re looking for?”
Success is something everyone wants. We all want to catch it.
The problem is that most people have no idea what THEIR personal definition of Success is, so even if Success landed on their doorstep tomorrow, they’d have no idea it was there.
That’s exactly how I sabotaged my own happiness. I had no idea what Success was FOR ME, so I had no idea what would have to happen in order for me to feel Successful.
At first, I came up with this personal definition of Success:
-$1,000,000+ a year in salary
-A nice big-sized house
-A Mercedes SL500 Convertible
That’s it. For me, if I could have those things, I’d know I was Successful.
Now, for me personally, I ended up discovering that that was a bad definition for Success. The problem with it was that it caused me to be miserable in the present, simply because I was so incredibly far away from those things. I mean, I was nowhere near them.
As a result, I still felt like a failure and I was unhappy, simply because I didn’t have those things. I killed my own chance for happiness in the present.
Here’s my new personal definition of Success:
*Make a living doing what I’m in love with doing and what I’m passionate about. I want to simply making a living working with professional athletes on sports psychology and personal development.*
As long as I can make a living doing what I love to do every day, acting out my passions and what I believe is my purpose, then I’m the happiest guy in the world. I know I’ve made it. I know I’m successful. I’m living my dream.
Simply by switching my personal definition of Success, I was able to instantly going from feeling like I was a failure to feeling like I was a Success. I went from frustrated and anxious to happy and relaxed.
All by changing my personal definition. All by changing my perspective. I had Success right on my doorstep, I just hadn’t had the perspective to see it before because I never took the time to get a clear idea of what my personal definition of Success was.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that I wouldn’t like to earn $1,000,000 a year, or have a big house, or have a Mercedes SL 500 Convertible. I’m not saying I shouldn’t chase down those elaborate dreams or desires that I may have.
However, I do believe that nice “things”, such as a massive salary, a big house, and a nice car should simply be an added bonus to my more simple version of Success. They shouldn’t define it.
They should be like a dessert to the main course.
I believe my personal definition of Success should be something simple, something that allows me to be happy, relaxed, and content with myself and my life in the present moment, because the present is all I have. I don’t have the past, and I don’t have the future. I have today.
That guy I met who sold his company for $8,000,000 dollars didn’t feel Successful because, even though he had made a lot of money by selling his company, he didn’t know what his own personal definition of Success actually was. All he knew was $8,000,000 didn’t mean “Success”.
So many people never allow themselves to actually be Successful simply because they don’t know what their personal definition of Success is.
So, that’s my question to you:
In order for you to feel Successful, what would have to happen?
Let’s figure it out together. If you can, grab a piece of paper and pen and write out that question at the very top in big writing:
“In order for me to feel successful, what would have to happen?”
Come up with your own personal definition of Success. They key is, don’t make your answer what you think your parents think it should be, or your friends think it should be, or what society has tried to tell you it should be.
Come up with your own answer. It’s your life. Your definition of Success should be yours, and it should be something that’s going to make you as happy, satisfied, and fulfilled as you can possibly be.
Is it earning $1,000,000 a year in salary?
Is it earning $30,000 a year in salary?
Is it having a big house?
Is it owning your own home no matter how big or small?
Is it having a nice convertible?
Is it having a wife/husband, kids, and a family that you love and that loves you?
Is it traveling around the world volunteering to help people?
Is it having the financial freedom to set your own schedule?
Is it having a well-paid job with great benefits?
Is it working for yourself, or owning your own business?
As I mentioned earlier, me personally, “things” don’t equate Success. However, you are your own person, and for you, maybe “things” do mean Success. If so, that’s fine. It’s just important that you figure it out.
If you never figure out what your personal definition of Success is, you won’t be able to see it even if you do achieve it, and worse yet, you won’t have any clear idea as to what direction you need to be heading in.
And, your personal definition of Success may change over time. You may achieve what you thought was “Success”, and then realize you want more. Or less. Everyone’s different. If that does happen, just recognize it and ask yourself, “What’s my new personal definition of Success?”
But, by doing this, you’ll have clarity. You’ll have an answer as to what Success personally means to you. You’ll be able to catch it once its close, and you’ll be able to recognize it once you’ve caught it.