Last week I shared the story of Robert Holden and his father, a well-respected international business executive, who became increasingly lost on his pursuit of ‘success’ and died a slow, tragic, and painful death from alcoholism. One of Holden’s main discoveries after twenty years of exploring the subject was that:
We have no definition of success besides the messed-up one our culture feeds us – and you need your own definition to make sure you don’t get lost.
He also discovered that there is a useful flip side to this: First create a definition of failure that allows you to continue pursuing what you love in life.
“I’ve failed over and over and over again in life. And that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan
None of us wants to fail. No team wants to lose. None of us wants to get ill, injured or have an accident. We want our children to achieve exclusively great things. Yet each of us knows that this is not real: we have all fallen short with relationships, work assignments or jobs, and meeting all our health and financial goals; we’ve all been thrown off course and interrupted unexpectedly (most days!) by life events that have led to disappointing outcomes. We’ve all made mistakes. It’s an innate part of living a human life.
Failure is nothing to fear even if it’s not enjoyable, and it usually provides us our most valuable lessons in life. Typically, when we are ready to reflect on something that didn’t go as well as we wanted it to, we can identify mistakes we made.
Forgive yourself for your mistakes and let them go. I realize this is a process and much easier said than done. What you need is a way to look at ‘failure’ such that you rebound from setbacks and accept them as part of life.
Here’s my most recent definition of failure. Feel free to borrow bits as a starting point for yourself:
True Failure is having the epitaph: “too scared to go all in on your dreams.”
True failure is giving up on what you love in life and giving up on yourself
True failure is no longer learning and growing
True failure is when you stop dreaming and loving
True failure is ceasing to serve and inspire others
True failure is not being grateful for what you have
Once you have a healthier perspective about setbacks and challenges, it’s easier to put true success into a context that really inspires you.
We are sold the message that success equals having – more money, a bigger house, a nicer car etc. But there is almost no scientific evidence among advanced industrial societies between income level and subjective wellbeing beyond a surprisingly low household income. We fail to focus on living a life of purpose that serves others. And why – when we think about success – does it always mean needing MORE? It never considers that what you have now might be enough and is certainly plenty to be grateful for.
a) A great question to ask yourself first focuses on being: ‘What type of person do I want to be?’ When people write their own obituaries, they rarely mention their possessions. They write about relationships, quality of life and having made a difference. As Gandhi said: “BE the change you want to see.”
b) According to Holden, “the key to feeling truly successful” is to know the answer to this question: What do I really want? Then turn this into your definition of success.
What do you really want?
It’s easiest to start by breaking down what you want into areas of your life:
Your key relationships:
i. Your self-belief:
ii. Your confidence:
iii. Your self-respect:
iv. Your sense of worthiness:
v. Your happiness:
vi. How positively challenged you’ve been:
vii. How do you want to feel?
viii. What do you want to say to yourself?
Living Your Purpose:
Following Your Heart:
Listening to Your Soul:
What is your definition of true success?
Only you can answer this. Here are a few – the first four are paraphrases from Robert Holden:
True success is to keep saying ‘yes’ to what truly moves your soul.
True success is about finding something you believe in so much that you will risk giving your heart for it – something you love.
True success is something we feel (love) when we allow the grace of the universal mind to inspire our endeavors.
True success is serving and inspiring others.
True success is choosing GRATITUDE over frustration.
“The purpose of life is a life of purpose.” – Robbie Byrne
“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best you are capable of becoming.” – John Wooden
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” – Helen Keller
“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one: the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish, little clod of ailments complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.” – George Bernard Shaw
On the night Robert Holden’s dad died, he kept asking himself: “what’s real?” The only answer that finally came to him was: “love is real.” And that's what he’s committed his life to ever since.
He encourages you and me to say yes to life, yes to yourself and your own wisdom, yes to relationships, yes to a purpose and to commit, and yes to love.
When you have your own versions of:
“Failure for me is having the epitaph: “too scared to go all-in on his dreams” and
“Success for me is to keep saying ‘yes’ to what truly moves my soul,”
then how you handle setbacks gets easier and how you make decisions and spend your (one life) time gets centered on what you value (not your parents, Hollywood or marketers), is purpose-driven, and is a whole lot clearer.
To true success!
Founder & President
Matt Anderson International
1177 Oak Ridge Drive, Glencoe, IL 60022, USA
Phone: +001 (312) 622-3121