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The True Meaning of Success ?

successSome of the greatest thinkers of all time have struggled to come up with 'the true meaning of success'.

So, who better than the woefully under-qualified me to clear things up for everyone.

Obsessed With Success

People who consciously practice personal development tend to have at least one thing in common - they all 'want to be successful'.

This throws up a few immediate questions, like:

  • What does it mean to be a success?
  • Can we ever hope to 'succeed' if we have not first defined the parameters for what success means to us?
  • Leading on from that, is it possible that you could in fact already be a success, and have simply failed to notice?
  • Is there a universal, true meaning of success, that we can tap into and use to our advantage in our quest to be successful?

Why Now?

It's with these questions in mind that I sit here, cramped and tired on a London Underground train, pondering whether I am, in fact, a success after all.

Perhaps you can relate to my situation, whereby a large proportion of my stresses seem to come from a near-obsessive focus with whether I am successful enough yet. I often catch myself wondering how much further I have to go & what I have to achieve in order 'to be a success'.

To put this in context, I have just walked out of a high-paying sales consultancy project after just one and a half days (which was scheduled to last for 10), due to the intense dislike I have (and clearly forgot I had!) for cold calling sales prospects.

Does it make me a failure that I couldn't 'mind over matter'
my abject misery, and continue to sell despite my discomfort
and desire to be doing (almost) anything else?

Or am I a success because I can clearly define what I DON'T want, and had the balls (and the sense) to remove myself from a situation that was clearly causing me more harm than good?

What About You?

Can you relate to where I'm coming from?

Do you remove yourself from situations that make you feel overly upset and overwhelmed? Or do you plough on regardless, adhering to the mantra that 'what don't kill me makes me stronger?'  Or worse - do you carry on because you don't believe you can do / deserve any better?

The probable answer is 'a bit of both'. Odds are, if you're like 90+% of the population (admittedly an uneducated guess), your current career causes you to experience lots of negative emotions on a daily basis, even if they are at the lower end of the 'I need to go on a killing rampage' scale. You may want to do something different, but fear of the unknown keeps you from taking a leap into the abyss.

So... are you a success for continuing to go in, pouring your time and energy and heart into causes that don't really matter to you?

Or would you be more of a success if you quit tomorrow
to pursue a dream, even if you didn't have the first clue
as to how you could make your dream viable?

Maybe the true meaning of success is having the kahunas to follow dreams, even when by conventional standards you are taking a huge risk.




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Follow Your Bliss

If you've read much of my stuff before, you'll probably guess my argument here: namely, to be a true success means that you must have the courage to walk away from things / people / activities that cause you to feel crappy (or worse).

In fact, in recent months I have been adhering to Joseph Campbell's philosophy of 'follow your bliss'.

For those of you unaware of Campbell's work (I only found him recently via Philosophers Notes), one of his basic arguments is that your level of success is judged by the amount you 'follow your bliss' - i.e. how often you do the things that make you feel happy, whole and fulfilled.

Campbell suggests that the more we follow our bliss,
the happier we will feel and the more of a success we will be.

I truly get where the dude is coming from, but does this mean that we can (and should) turn our backs on anything that makes us unhappy? Should we? Or is this just an idealistic, unrealistic and unworkable notion?

In short, is the true meaning of success the absolute refusal to do anything that compromises our happiness?

My honest answer: I don't know yet.

No More Cold Calling: Success or Quitter?

My gut feelings when walking out of this consulting job were relief and happiness. I swore to myself I'd never resort to cold-calling again. I realised that the pros (good money, praise) were dramatically outweighed by the cons (hating the feeling of selling something I don't particularly care for, feeling that I am wasting my time).

But I also couldn't shake the sense that I had failed at something I had committed to do. I promised my client ten days of work, and delivered only 1/8 of that.

Can it even be possible that you can be both a failure and a success at the same time?

Factors to Consider

After dwelling on this for the past few hours, I'm still really no closer to a definitive answer. I guess life ain't quite as black and white as we'd like it to sometimes be.

I do truly believe that we should do what makes us happy. I think we should try and look into our soul, to see what it really wants from life (as hippy-ish as that sounds).

Meditation, dream exploration, self-hypnosis, visualization and other consciousness-raising activities can help us to communicate with our deeper, wiser, higher self - yet even with these practices most people are still confused as to what they truly want. At times I still wonder what my purpose is, and I spend most of my waking hours chewing on this very question.

As much as I do believe you should 'follow your bliss',
I reckon we should also push ourselves to operate outside
of our comfort zones. We should do things that force us to
grow, and push ourselves to reach our highest potential

Conversely, we should avoid those activities that make us feel bad, wrong, uncomfortable, unhappy or sick-to-our-stomach.

The True Meaning of Success

I guess the closest I can come to defining the 'true meaning of success' is:

1) committing to doing what you love, and

2) knowing that to get there you must do things which make you grow
(which you don't necessarily enjoy), whilst

3) avoiding things that make you deeply unhappy.

According to that definition, I was right to leave my consulting job. 

Because whilst staying would certainly have helped me grow (step 2), the role made me deeply unhappy, which violates the final part of the principle, and thus compromises my success.

If I would have stayed, I reckon I would have been more of a failure. I feel like I made the right choice.

Are You a Success?

Over to you now.

According to my three step principle above, are you a success?
Does your chosen career path make you a success?
Are you at least on the right path?

If you are, congratulations. Continue to follow your bliss dude/ette. Whilst the road will not always be paved with gold and marshmallows and cash and love, if you repeatedly take steps towards your dream life, it is inevitable that you will arrive there sooner of later.

Conversely, if you are not doing (or trying to do) what you love, and you are not pushing yourself to grow, and you are actively engaging in activities that make you unhappy, get off the (wrong!) path my friend.

F**k it, you don't have to listen to me, but do you think you will magically start to love what you do if you carry on as you are? Or do you prefer to think that one day your depression and alienation will transmute into apathy, and you'll simply come to accept your current role in life?

I'm not here to preach. All I want to do is open your mind and ask you to consider your actions and path. If you're not happy now - or working towards worthy goals that truly matter to you - do you ever think you'll stumble upon your bliss?

There is so much scope for you to do / be / achieve what you want. But - and it's a BIG but - the unhappier you are, the less likely you are to get there. You've got to be feeling good, putting out the good vibes, and consciously stepping (leaping) towards your dream.

You gotta have the balls to take a blind leap of faith and trust yourself to get where you want to be. Even if you just use 'away' motivation to depart from your current woes, without really knowing where you are going, it's gotta be better than carrying on the current path regardless.

In short, I reckon that to be a success you have to SPRINT away from things that make you unhappy, EMBRACE challenges that make you grow (even if they are 'no fun'), and DO ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING that makes you feel warm and fuzzy and child-like inside. That's the true meaning of success.

So now, why not scribble down a few ideas now as to what you really want, what skills you'll need to get there, how far outside your comfort zone you will have to go, and what you absolutely refuse to do anymore
(or will stop doing as soon as feasibly possible).

You'll feel motivated, inspired and optimistic just by this simple act of taking pen to paper, and we all know the crazy tendency of written goals to materialise and manifest.

The True Meaning of Success - Defined

In summary, after 1500 words of argument, I think the true meaning of success can be summed up best with the concise (and genius) wisdom of Bob Dylan:

'A man is a success if he gets up in the morning
and gets to bed at night, and in between
he does
what he wants to do'.

Right on Bob. There's the true meaning of success right there.

Good luck people. Follow your bliss. Do what you wanna do. Avoid shit that makes you feel crappy.

Simple, no?! ;)

PS - If you want to respond to this post on the true meaning of success, add your own thoughts or join the discussion, you can follow me on Twitter (@pdplanet) or contact me directly.

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