My journey to connect with purpose and passion.

Reclaiming Success

There are so many people that inspire me with their journey to find meaning and purpose. And yet, I often run into a challenge when I invite these people to appear on Taking the Leap. They are hesitant.

“I don't know what I could say that would be of value.”

“I haven't achieved anything yet.”

So many ways of saying, “I am not successful, so why are you asking this of me?”

I spent my morning trying to understand what might cause these people I admire to have such doubts about themselves. And then, as in all good insights, I realized I am also afflicted.

I have been putting off some things until I am more "successful". 

As I dug into this, I realized that my success was partly defined by financial measures – to have enough money, to be seen as prosperous, to have enough influence. I had adopted a fuzzy definition of success strongly influenced by the status quo. 

We cheat ourselves when we define success in financial terms.  This type of thinking limits our options. It commits us to a specific and very narrow view of the problem; a way that often blocks us from achieving success.

I know because I used to do this.

I had defined success as having enough money to be able to travel the world and take a month long vacation. And so I worked harder, raised the household debt and committed myself to a life where I would never be able to stop working. My dream went from 5 years out to 10 years out to some mythical state of retirement when I was 70.

One day my partner and I woke up and realized we would never have our dream unless we did something drastic. We had to break out of the dominant paradigm and take control of our lives.

We quickly realized we also wanted more than a month-long vacation. We yearned to spend the winter somewhere warm where we could write, photograph and renew ourselves. And we didn't want this in 10 years. We wanted it this year. 

I will always remember the day we realized we could have all of this and we could have it within the year.

It meant a lot of changes and sacrifices. We had to reorganize our life. We moved into my tiny studio – two guys, a dog, a cat, and hundreds of piles of stuff lining every wall. We are renting out the rest of our house. We cut our expenses, lowered our debt and changed our lifestyle.

The key was to stop focusing on the financial part of the goal and start focusing on the life we desired to live. And then we were able to be creative about how to get to what we wanted. We discussed so many ways to move us closer to what we yearned for.

I am surrounded by people who say they can't afford their dreams. The sad thing is that they can. They just need to stop yearning for money and start focusing on what they really want.

Maybe they don't get a new car every three years. Maybe they don't buy a larger house. Their kids share a room and then they spend next year touring the world as a family with the money they saved.

Properly defining success allows us to make the sacrifices necessary to live a life others only dream of and allows our hearts to come alive. 

But beware, the status quo is a sneaky and pernicious little beast. It had wormed its way back into how I defined my success, because I had not been explicit in my definition. I had just assumed that how I thought about success would align with the world I am trying to build.

I'd love to know your thoughts about success, how you define it and whether or not you feel like a successful person.


Ready for the next step? See my article on how to Invest in Service.