Success is a relative and relatable word. It is used in many forms to communicate many things. It is a very common word in our everyday life, yet it still remains an enigma.
Success has many different representations, if so is there an absolute called success? If there is not, then how can my success and your success be compared? and how can you teach, coach or mentor success to others?
Concept of darkness
In the world of physics, darkness is an interesting subject because darkness technically can not be measured, so then is darkness technically a real thing? Actually darkness is a function of light, meaning that darkness is the absence of light. Therefore measuring the absence of light describe the intensity of darkness.
Lets transpose the same idea to understand success, that is the presence or absence of something can be use to measure success.
Presence of Success Habits
Success, I mean real success, not the one-hit wonder, but the eternal success (significance or legacy) is only real when there is a consistent presence of constructive habits or behavior or beliefs that lead you to your potential. And inversely, failure is the absence of constructive habits that traps you in mediocrity.
There are many habits that are serving, and some might be more relevant than others depending on the season of life you are in, the context you are in and the goal you want to achieve. Firstly having a growth mindset is required for creating and maintaining a constructive habit. In simple terms, growth mindset is the belief that I can improve myself infinitely if I am intentional and consistent.
Secondly, having an understanding of the core areas of personal growth will help in prioritizing your effort and energy in the right growth area to maximize your outcomes. Here are four success practices you can adopt to help you in your success journey.
The ability to do something successfully and efficiently is the general characteristic of a competent person. This level of proficiency is not achieved overnight, but gradually through intentional success habits of sharpening the tools required to succeed. Make it a habit to get better at what you do by building knowledge and skill. And then to practice it over and over again till you reach your best.
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” - Abraham Lincoln
I love the many versions of this quote, ‘courage is not absence of fear, rather the ability to go forward nonetheless’. I feel that is so inspirational. In life are you willing to take that risk, to bet on yourself, to go beyond your fear in spite of it, go beyond your failure in spite of it, and go beyond your pain in spite of it. Because that is how winning is done.
One is driven to take that risk when one has a clear idea of what one doesn't want and what one wants, that is, awareness about self gives teeth to courage, in spite of the overwhelming odds of failure, you will bet on yourself and your competency.
Unfortunately, many people rather remain stuck in their miserable state than take action to change their circumstance because of the fear of failure. To succeed in life you need two types of courage. The courage to take action and the courage to endure. The courage to take action comes from believing in yourself. The courage to endure comes from your desire to succeed.
Just like competency, courage develops by making courage a habit, because we are creatures of habit, so think whether your decision making habits serve you or restrict you in developing your courage.
A friend of mine, who is an HR professional, was sharing with me about his company's initiatives taken during the pandemic. And I was truly impressed, this company’s CEO took proactive measures long before the March 2020 Pandemic lockdown. And the measures continue with such human touch even after a year. And as I was listening to my friend, I knew he was proud to be a member in the team that steered the company during the pandemic.
So as I was praising his CEO for the vision and compassion, I asked my friend if he ever got an opportunity to meet the CEO. He recounted making an employee encouragement, motivation and feedback visit to a unit of the company. Since the unit was near to the residence of the CEO, he took the opportunity to send a courtesy message regarding the well being of the employees, and to his pleasant surprise the CEO replied asking him to come over home for lunch. My friend immediately rescheduled everything and took the opportunity to have a great moment with the CEO.
I can honestly tell you, had I been in my friend's shoes, it is very possible I would not have thought of messaging my CEO , as it was not a job requirement. But my friend did, because he believes in making opportunities to learn, to build relationships and create impact.
Many times we restrict ourselves from the obvious opportunities that we have right in front of us because we are either shy, or afraid or unable to see beyond our requirement. All we have to do is think outside of our comfort zone and step up. The message cost him nothing, but what he got in return was an opportunity to be in the presence of a giant that he admires very dearly.
‘Enough’ is tricky to gauge, one persons enough, maybe others' requirements. So it's difficult to quantify ‘what is enough’ from a materialistic point of view, also that would be a shallow expression of the enough principle. I believe the better way to see this is to test yourself against what is your Ought, Need and Want.
When we were expecting our baby, we needed to buy a car to meet our immediate needs. After research I decided to buy a pre-owned Tata Nano. That decision of mine didn't go well with my friends or family, but I was clear about what I needed, I needed a small, budget friendly, tall boy car. And I saw it in the Nano.
The ‘Ought’ to have a car according to my family status and social image was definitely not a Tata Nano and that was the greatest argument I got from my friends and family.
Surely, I had the desire to get a brand new car, but the ‘Want’ for a new car didn't make sense of thriving in that season of life, especially when there were many other expressions of thriving. So we differed on buying a new car for another season of our life, when it aligned with the sense of thriving.
Ought originates from an obligation to have, it is an external imposed need. Need originates from the basic requirement to survive and Want originates from the sense of thriving aligned to that season of life. (read more about Ought, Need & Want)
There was once a demon that was roaming the earth to see how to make human beings do wrong. It so happens that one afternoon he was going through the field, and he happened to see a poor farmer toiling the earth in the hot sun and under the tree in the shade was a small bundle of bread and water. The farmer was just making enough to survive and his lunch too was very meager, just enough to not die.
The demon thought, if I steal the food, the farmer would be angry and upset and the farmer would curse and abuse, and the farmer would have sinned by doing so.
The demon was happy with his plan and stole the food just before the farmer had come exhausted and famished to have his lunch. To his dismay, the lunch was missing, and for a moment he was angry and upset, but then he calm down, and thought to himself 'whoever would have taken my lunch might have needed it more than me' and said 'God bless them, and quench their hungry’
The demon was shocked and also afraid, because he had to report this to the demon-head and he knew he would be punished for not meeting the daily requirement of making people sin. The demon-head banished the demon until he is able to make the farmer sin.
The demon thought first to understand the farmer better, so he changed his appearance into a human and befriended the farmer. In the first year, the demon advised the farmer to sow in the mushy lands. The farmer followed the advice as they were good friends. And it so happens that it was a dry year and having sowed in the mushy land, his crops survived giving a reasonable yield.
The next year, the demon advised to sow in the high area, and that year it was raining and his crops escaped flooding, thus giving very good yield, meaning there was excess from this year and previous year. The farmer didn't know what to do and asked the demon for advice. The demon suggested, to make wine and relax to enjoy the hard labor, and also invite neighbors to share the good fortune.
Soon the drinking and merrymaking increased, issues between farmer and wife increased, abuse and brawling started with neighbors and finally the farmer became an ill-tempered, obnoxious and foul mouth person.
The Demon-Head was pleased with the outcome, and was very intrigued to know what the demon did, to which the demon said, "all I did was show the farmer a way to have more than what he needed."
Some might think of minimalism at this point, but understand this minimalism is not only about having less things, no it is not, it is a way of life that fits your vision! The ability to manage ‘more than needed’ is critical in sustaining success. So get on a personal growth plan that will help you go beyond your success into significance. When you are able to understand your vision or purpose, you can better frame your ‘enough’ principle, and it is also becomes an indicator for measuring your journey from success to significance.
3D’s in a success story
I believe that success is not the end, rather success is the beginning of significance and that is where the true celebration of life is . In simple words, Success is about me, significance is about others.
That means, unless you are not able to be a success as per your own definition of success, you may not be able to be significant. And for a person to be successful, they have to have a set of habits that helps them get there. No one achieved anything one fine morning, there is a story of determination, discipline and despair behind it.
Interestingly some are not intentional about their own growth that when success happens to them by chance, they are not able to relate to why it happened, meaning they will not be able to sustain that success and act towards significance
I think the best example is about how money is handled, because it is such a tangible commodity, many people who regard money as a success indicator have died broke, even after amassing a lot of money. Have you wondered why? It is very simple, they just didn't have success habits around money.
Since we are creatures of habit, always remember, we will , without a doubt, be the sum total of our habits, so whatever your habits are today, good or bad, can be used to predict your future. Simple logic, if staying healthy is a measure for success to you, then by sleeping late, eating late, and drinking more, you can be sure you will not achieve that success of staying healthy!