Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Redefining Success

Today I read an article that claimed that happy people are more likely to succeed because they put in more effort and have more confidence.  This is interesting and it certainly follows the law of attraction but doesn't it sound like a bunch of confounding variables? Did they succeed because they were happy or was it actually the effort and the confidence that made them succeed? Being happy regardless of circumstances is in itself a tremendous success and accomplishment.  I would argue, however, that it was the other factors and not the positive mental attitude--although I am a big proponent of positivity, not just for financial success but for health and wellbeing too. No one likes a negative Nancy and there are so many benefits from being happy and positive.  But happiness alone cannot determine whether a person will be successful or not.

There are certain habits, rituals or practices that anyone can do (happy or not) that do seem to foster and engender the cultivation (or possibility) of success and this link has some solid insights, suggestions and observations that I believe are worthwhile to adopt. But there are no guarantees in life.

Napolean Hill was onto something big when he said, "Think and Grow Rich"  There is much truth to that and yet I feel that there is much more at play.  What about fate and destiny and luck or karma?  Could these factors be involved in determining success?  We all know of starving talented artists, comedians, singers etc who have the skills to be on the big screen making millions but they remain undiscovered waitresses and bartenders and computer technicians singing karaoke and playing in front of small audiences in dive coffee shops.  Why?  They have the confidence to perform and share their gifts, they have agents, but they didn't get the big opportunity to shine.  Does that make them unsuccessful?  Are you only successful if you are famous or make lots of money?  Or does small scale success count?

Can't sad or angry people also use their negative emotions to fuel their success, drive them to work hard and achieve their goals?  I would argue that any emotion can be used as passion and fuel to achieve success if it motivates a person to pursue their passion.  The key factor is the ACTIONS that the person makes despite of their feeling happy, sad or mad.

Let's look at the real world.  Some of the greatest artists, politicians, inventors, and business men in the world were frustrated, depressed and/or mentally ill.  This article lists 50 famous people who were/are depressed and achieved tremendous accolades in their respective fields.  Many achieved unparalleled fame, fortune and productivity.  Clearly depression can be debilitating and life-threatening for some but it does not stop other people from fulfilling their dreams and aspirations.

Would country music or the Blues exist without sadness?  People have made fortunes on those careers.  What about Van Gough who chopped his own ear off.  Or Mike Tyson who bit a man's ear off, and Woody Allen who could talk your ear off?  Was it happiness or something else that was responsible for their achievements?

How about successful angry people?  Would Heavy Metal music exist without anger?  Would Eminem be famous if it weren't for expressing his rage in rap music?  Would Alanis Moressette even have a career in music if it weren't for the frustration and anger she channeled in her songs that many people could relate to?  What about boxers and other athletes who use their anger (towards bad parents, upbringing, lack, and life) to power their athletic prowess? All emotions serve a purpose and when people are authentic with their feelings, other people can relate to that and that is powerful, inspiring, moving, unifying, and reassuring.  People seek connection and they find it through music and art and sports.  They want to feel like they are not alone with their struggles and challenges in life. 

So what do successful depressed, angry and happy people have in common?  I would say that these people all used their strong and powerful emotions to drive them forward in life.  But emotions are not enough.  It has to be coupled with action, effort, confidence, drive, and determination.  All these people had a huge desire to express, share, or transform what it was inside of them into whatever their vision was.  Oprah Winfrey and Tony Robbins were driven by the poverty of their upbringing to create a better future for themselves.  In my humble opinion, you don't have to be happy to be successful, you have to desire success, envision success, and create success.  This can be done in any emotive state.

Robin Williams, Michael Jackson, and many other superstar celebrities were depressed and society would define them as having had successful careers. But did they succeed in the game of life?  Were they successful in God's eyes?  What does the fame and fortune mean if you can't be around to enjoy it? 

So this brings me to another interesting discussion... WHAT IS SUCCESS?  How do we define it or measure it?

Most of us equate success with money.  If you are rich, you are successful.  Steve Jobs was a successful business man but was he a successful person?  Did he win in life?  The articles that I read about him online said that he was a horrible person and employer and father.  He denied his own children paternity!  He embarrassed and humiliated his employees in interviews and treated people like garbage.  Is this what we consider success?

There are articles online that explain why rich people are jerks and that having money brings out the worst in people. So is having money and being a despicable person the measure of success?  What about poor teachers and preachers or house wives who raise good ethical children who are generous with their time and helping others?  Are they not successful because they don't have money or fame?
What about the rich lawyer who made his fortune by twisting facts in court and letting rapists, murders and child abusers off the hook to become repeat offenders?  Is he successful?  What about the real estate tycoon who made his fortune stepping on others, committing adultery and having an attitude of entitlement and superiority, vanity and arrogance.  Do you crave his success and all that comes with it?  It is a package deal after all.

We live in a world of illusion and mixed up values. We live in a society that defines success as having lots of money and a lavish lifestyle of excess, fortune and fame.  We all want it despite that we have already seen what it could do to us.  Many people sell their souls to the devil to get these things.  They lie, cheat, steal, do drugs, prostitution and other evil things for the Almighty dollar and to impress others.

I would argue that raising good quality human beings with strong morals and ethics and values is a greater accomplishment than making lots of money.  I used to be down on myself for not being where I imagined I would be financially at this age.  That's because for a long time I equated success with making money and acquiring wealth.  But I see that money can't buy happiness and there are somethings in life that are more valuable than paper.

An empathic patient of mine helped me to shift my perspective many years ago.  He sensed that I was down and he asked me about it.  I told him I was sad because I was not yet "successful."  He said that I helped a lot of people to improve their health and wellbeing and had a positive impact on their lives and that I was already successful because of that.  I never thought of it that way but I liked his perspective (positive reframe) and it helped me to not be so hard on myself for not achieving my financial goals.  I did put in all the effort and devotion and hard work that I had to my practice but it wasn't enough and despite my good intentions and vision and plans it seems like maybe it wasn't Gods Will.  Could there be another explanation?  Maybe there was a lesson in humility and acceptance and gratitude in having a modest income and being content with it. I had so many expectations about education and prosperity that didn't turn out to be true.  I was miseducated and misinformed about how to make money because I did all the right things but I still wasn't getting "there."

So I would say that happiness isn't enough and maybe isn't even even truly necessary at all.  Many people succeeded with anger and sadness.  There's so many factors and facets to success.  I have come to redefine success.  Success isn't money and money isn't success.  I think someone who is happy with what they have is successful.  We all know rich miserable people and I don't think they are winning in life.

I think winning in life is learning, growing, sharing, giving, serving, helping, connecting, smiling, living (not existing) and following your heart wherever it takes you, whether fortune and fame is in your cards or not, you can be successful at any level as long as you are authentic, true to yourself, and act with integrity.  Money doesn't define people.  Success should be measured in smiles not dollars.  How many people can you make smile today?  How many people will be better off for having known or met you?

The little old lady who rescues animals is successful.
Foster parents who love and take care of abused and neglected children are successful.
Preachers in poor neighborhoods who make people feel closer to God are successful.
Social workers who struggle with bills while helping people get on their feet are successful.
The school psychologist who instill confidence in bullied children is successful.
The firefighter who saves lives and who rents his apartment and has an old car is successful.
The substitute teacher who makes students love learning is successful.
The lawyer who takes pro bono cases fighting for justice but hasn't paid off his student loans is successful.
The medical assistant who instills hope in patients and has defaulted on her mortgage is successful.
The clown who brought joy at your kid's birthday party who lives with his mom is successful.
The man who lives in his parents basement pursuing his dream to be a musician is successful.
The special education teacher, the senior care provider and all the others who provide services with love and care and genuineness are not wealthy but they are successful.

None of the people in the list above drive fancy cars, live in big homes, make lots of money or get any kind of recognition.  But they are all making a difference in this world.  And THAT is how I chose to define success.