The various definition of success is as various as the number of people who are working to achieve it.
But, recently I have come across a couple of definitions that probably come closest to my own internal perception.
Grant Cardone says (paraphrased): success is the difference between our reality and the fulfillment of our potential.
And Hal Elrod says (again paraphrased): to be successful is not to be more but to, instead, to become more.
The reason I like these ideas is because both these men are highly focused on the idea of success being a greater concept than monetary wealth and I couldn’t agree more.
I am not insinuating that I am a “success pacifist” believing that success is a metaphysical experience that has nothing to do with financial security–I think most people who express a belief that success has nothing to do with money (i.e. affordability of things) have chosen not to play the game because you can’t lose if you don’t play.
But adversely, I think that there is also often an over emphasis on money as the defining feature of success. The truth is that both are counterweights in a balanced reality.
Let me give you a metaphor. We have all heard “success is a journey.” And we have all also had the belief that success is a destination (I can’t wait–until I can buy that, until I can do that, until I get there…)
But, what if we experience success as both a journey and a destination where the journey lends itself to the more spiritual idea of success and the destination to the more financial definition and we travel in both at certain points in our lives.
Let’s imagine life and the pursuit of success like a road trip with a few close companions from LA to New York.
You have a destination, you may be there a day or a weekend or even a week, but the drive itself maybe 2 or 3 times as long–granted you’re gonna stop and visit the Vegas, then the roadside giant ball of yarn, then Yellow Stone, then a ton of corn fields…you catch my drift.
You may do some driving, then some sitting, you and your companions may fight, there may be pot holes, flat tires, scary interactions. There will likely be cheap hotel rooms and sleeping in the car, rain storms and beautiful sunsets, funny stories, awesome strange people you meet along the way.
And overall, when you get to New York, it feels like a separate trip all together. Maybe it will feel like a reward to get out of the car or maybe after a short time you may even miss the wheat fields of Nebraska.
Maybe you and your friends got along better in the car, maybe you get along better in New York. Maybe when you get there, the friend you fought with decides they would rather meet up with friends or family and you barely see them the whole time because of the fight.
And when you get to New York: you have all the money you saved along the way sleeping in the car, eating god-knows-what at the roadside diner and not paying the parking fees at Yellowstone (not that I’ve ever done that), you get to have the time of your life. Your legs are stiff, you’re tired but your sacrifice has paid off. You get to see the shows, the sights, all the places that make up the fabled promised land that is New York City. And its awesome. To some if feels like it lasts forever to others it’s over in a blink. Some want to stay forever and some feel out of place. You like the hotel, its nicer than the house you grew up in, certainly nicer than the inside of the car. You can afford great meals, drinks in fancy places and you get to buy the t-shirt.
So you have made the journey–as long as it was, it may have been even a little bit of fun. You enjoyed the destination in all of its urban extravagance and now its time to go home. In a way you’re excited, but your friend is sad, they want to stay, but they’re out of money, in a way your looking forward to spending time sharing stories through wheat fields in Kansas about the crazy thing that happened in that one place in the City. But, you’re excited you get to see that weird diner next to the giant ball of yarn again and tell them your stories too.
Then finally, you make it home, it feels like it was a shorter trip back then it was to get there. And now, you’re really tired. Your ready for your bed, the people you love and a much needed nap. You have a lifetime of stories to tell and you get to remember them for yourself forever.
I would call that a successful trip, all the way around. Enough excitement, frustration, bad things and good things to really create a memory melting pot people can laugh at or gasp at or be jealous of.
My belief when telling myself this story is that it really equates well to life but, admittedly, I know very little (I am just passed Vegas into Utah on my journey–metaphorically).
But I think that young adulthood takes us to “Vegas” then as we grow up some we hit the open plains of career pursuits, where you need to keep your foot on the gas, eat cheap, sleep cheap and hopefully have a few wonderful sunsets along the way.
Until, all our sacrifice and saving leads us to the chance to spend our hard earned and well protected money at the Big Apple of success. We can keep our wallets looser, splurge on the weird picture we would have thought was ridiculous if it had been for sale down the street from our house, do a few things we had wished we could have done in Vegas but couldn’t afford it then and feel like the long trip was truly worthwhile.
Then, eventually, most of us want to go home and that “trip home” tends to be the sentimentality of old age (though some choose to stay in New York for old age)–time with grandkids, the simple stuff, an appreciation for the hard work of pedal to the metal driving in Kansas, but, often, a wish that we had spent just a little more time looking at the fields and the sky rather than just rushing through the “ugly parts.”
So what, great story Parker…(thank you)… *cough*
Well the point is, that though “success” (NYC) may be the destination, you’re going to spend a long time in the car, likely a lot more than you had initially thought. And New York, for all its splendor, after so long in all the humble places, may seem a little foreign (maybe not, but who really knows). The people who travel with you may hate by the end, or love by the end, or even worse…completely forget about by the end.
There is going to be trouble, pretty views, and terrible storms, funny stories, crappy food, great food, and a whole bunch of stuff you sleep through while everyone else is driving.
But, there are 3 constants in this story: the drive (journey), the destination (success) and the the car itself (your personal “world”).
And now, thinking through it, really all of those things are pivotal in the outcome and your perception of your trip.
A successful trip, to most, is not just an awesome drive and a terrible time in New York–being afraid to spend the money you saved, being to wary to try anything new, getting sick and not being able to leave your hotel the whole time.
Success, to many, is not driving as fast as you can, never enjoying anything, working as hard as you can, falling in love with “the grind,” deciding that you don’t need your friends because they want to stop or don’t want to drive as fast as you and so you leave them behind, or stop speaking, and then living in a penthouse in New York by yourself for the rest of your life.
To me, success is learning to enjoy your time in the car–learning to be present, to drive fast, telling stories, playing games, enjoying the funny things that you would have never known existed before you left, eating weird food, saving money, then spending money, having fun doing things you had always dreamed of in New York, but taking care of your relationships with your friends, driving safely, seeing the sights, meeting the people and all the while remembering to take care of yourself and your car.
Because if you don’t take care of your car, change the oil, clean the windshield, fill the gas tank, keep the seats clean, and air in the tires, the whole trip could come undone at any point and small problems could turn into terrible problems.
And eventually, you appreciate the car–the way the passenger door only opens from the inside, or the hum of the engine when you turn it on or how the heater smells when you’re driving while everyone else is asleep.
The car, like your real life intimate world–your home, your closest companions, the places you tell your stories, becomes a security blanket of comfort through all the foreign places, it becomes a sanctuary from the exterior problems and gives you a place from which to enjoy all the things out of your control. The car is important, in fact, it could be more important than either the journey or the destination. The car is your personal, intimate world and if it isn’t maintained, everything else will quickly become irrelevant.
In my mind success is a balance of destination and journey an appreciation of both, and then experiencing both of them intentionally. Success is being mindful of the inside of the car (our intimate world)–the people, the way we maintain it, and where we fit in because sometimes were the driver and sometimes were a passenger, while also maintaining the discipline to keep moving forward, keep saving money and sticking to the map to make sure that we can make it and have an awesome time in New York.
Recently, my mom told me “success occurs when we can align our goals and our gifts.” That fits really well with this story. you need to have your destination be somewhere you want to see and you need to be able to drive your vehicle down a usable road.
Maybe your dream is to take a motorcycle trip to New Orleans or maybe you want to sail to Alaska, maybe you want to drive a Prius to San Francisco or maybe you will take a truck to Texas…only you can answer that.
But the advice I give myself and you (which is worth exactly what your paying for it), before you begin, pick a car you like and feel comfortable spending a lot of time in, pick a route that has things you want to see before you get to the destination and make sure you travel with people you can grow close to, and when you get to your destination enjoy the hell out of it so you can have plenty of stories to tell us all when you decide to come home.
And finally be patient. Sometimes, you will want to pullover, or turn around, or not know how to change a tire, but remember in all the times you want to quit or change paths or destinations because you heard all the wonderful things about someone else’s journey: when it things seem terrible and something else seems great…
The grass is always greener on the other side…
because it just rained over there.
Excuse the ramblings of someone contemplating their own journey, car and destination…