Words of wisdom all around but no one ever seems to listen They talk about their plans on the paper Building up from the pavement mm hm there’re shadows from the scrapers on the pavement mm hm It’s enough to make me sigh but that don’t seem like it would make it feel better The words are all around but the words are only sounds and no one ever seems to listen
– Jack Johnson “Traffic in the Sky”
Do you have a definition of success?
I’ve taught hundreds of students for over five years. Every time I ask this simple question: “Who wants to be successful?” every single person raises his hand. At this point, I actually have inverted the question to simply be, “who does NOT want to be successful.” Just to verify that not a single person will raise their hand. Obviously, it is unanimous, EVERYONE WANTS TO BE SUCCESSFUL. This of course is where the “fun” begins…
Then, I ask them to define success.
Can you say deer in the headlights… pretty much a room full of blank stares. The students kind of squirm in their seats, perhaps a little concerned I might pin them down and actually ask them for their definition.
Wild isn’t it? Throughout the years, I’ve discovered that only about of my students actually have a working definition of success.
You may have noticed this too? Everyone wants to be successful, yet, how many have defined it?
There seems to be lots of people searching high and low for “answers”- for “shortcuts” to this elusive “success.” You’ve seen the headlines and the advertisements, no doubt:
“Be Outrageously Happy in Three Easy Steps” “Seven Secrets to Riches” “Be the Success You’ve Always Dreamed Of”
The crazy thing is . . . if you ask them what “success” truly is they – just like 97 percent of my students — would probably be at a loss for words.
Try it sometime. Ask someone to define “success” for you. You’ll probably be received with a blank stare. If not, you’ll get some vague definition that sounds something like:
“Success is waking up with a smile on my face.” “Success is knowing that someone loves me.”
Now, this brings me to the question of the day: How in the world can YOU hit a target when YOU can’t see it . . . or worse yet, does not even exist?
Creating your personal definition of success
Welcome to Exercise #1. You guessed it! Time for you to write out your definition of success!
Think about it. It seems only logical that the first step to success is to at least to resolve in your mind what exactly success is. What it ought to look and feel like! You must first have a definition for it if you plan to attain it!
Ideally, your definition of success should be no longer than two or three sentences. In fact, the shorter the definition, the better. One time I asked a person to give me his personal definition of success. He gave me a description a mile long. “Success,” he said, “is when I’m happy, my dog is fed and when my girlfriend is happy and we have a lot of money and no financial worries.” what!? – why not just add when the cat is sleeping and the baby isn’t crying!
I could probably fill several posts here on success theory alone. However, for now, what is most important is to identify an acceptable definition – one that has stood the test of time. Here, humbly submitted for your consideration is the one I teach in every class…
SUCCESS = CREATING YOUR IDEAL FUTURE.
Be sure to leave comments and share your thoughts. Really looking forward to some quality success definitions posted here. Let’s see it!
“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one.”
– Elbert Hubbard
What do you do?” he asked, wondering how I manage stress. I must have had a mouth full of food “meditate”, I told him. He nodded his head knowingly and said – “right, which ones?” I looked at him strangely. “What?” I said. He then said, “What kind of medications do you take?” I quickly chuckled. Then realizing the serious nature of his misunderstanding…
“No man, MEDITATE, not MEDICATE” I said.
One of the most common requests I get is from people asking for ways to better manage stress. These are stressful times – Inflation combined with the remnants of a housing bubble aren’t making it any easier for anyone!
The other day, I was having lunch with a very successful fortune 500 executive (mid acquisition). Frankly, this great man was stressed beyond belief as company politics had him a state of fear. He was concerned about some “higher-ups” and some moves they may make.
As previously mentioned, I fully recognize these are stressful times. Truthfully though, have there ever been any times that weren’t stressful? I mean, do you not think World War II was a stressful time? Or Vietnam, or ???. Look, seeking the answer in a bottle or pill can NOT be THE answer! It’s AN answer and it’s the wrong one. The answer, as always, is in responsibility and mindful self-control.
Our lunch conversation proceeded into a discussion where I reviewed a handful of the techniques shared below.
#1: MOVE IT
Go for a run or go for a walk, but just go! “Motion creates emotion” -Tony Robbins. Move to get out of your own head. A body at rest stays at rest. What you need is a different perspective simply exercising and creating some endorphins helps to creates a favorable mental state. Tell me the last time you saw a depressed runner?
My experience tells me that if you sit quietly for a minimum of just 3 minutes reflecting on all the good in your life you will have removed the stress immediately. If you are saying right now – “there is no good.” You need (as the old man used to say) your head screwed on tight! For starters, you are reading this so your eyes work, last time I checked, you were FREE to do as you pleased, (statistics tell me the majority of you are from the US) you’re using a computer that is tapped into the vast knowledge of the world.
Chances are you can probably type and write, hear, see, smell, walk, etc. I’d imagine you have family and friends… etc. (remember, to have friends you need to be a friend). But I digress. The point is, to relieve stress meditating on all the good in your life – what you are thankful for is very helpful.
Here are just a couple processes.
Just repeat quietly in your head ” I’m thankful for …” Or, “I’m grateful for…” or “God Bless…my eyesight, my hearing ….”Again, go through your personal list, sitting quietly with your eyes closed and your back straight. I do this on my knees, some people cross their legs – either way works. Some people like to lie down, however, some tend to fall asleep.
Another terrific process is to mentally navigate your body. To go through in your mind and touch your toes, travel with the blood through our heart to your fingertips – up through you head, into your brain, etc. This helps you to recognize and be grateful for your body, your health. Finally, finish your three minutes with a minute of visualization of how great your day will be and how the events of the day will unfold in your favor. See all the things you need to get done today getting finished without hassle.
#3: NO NEWS IS TRULY GOOD NEWS
This should be easy! Do not watch any news for a week. I promise, this won’t kill you. Quite the contrary actually. The news today is designed for drama – the more fear they can instill in the viewers- the higher the ratings! It has become comical. Just last night, Larry King had this poor CEO of Chevron – blasting him for the “billions in profits.” The news is absolutely loving the oil price run up. If i see another “live action” shot of a person filling up his tank my TV is gone!
#4: WORST CASE
To manage stress – many times the best path is to actually follow the worst case scenario. This is always a good exercise. If you can’t shake the fear- embrace it, go with it. Just ask these questions; what would have to happen to have this fear realized? what other events would have to happen? What is the order it would have to happen in?
What is the related timeframe? Often times, when a situation is put into that perspective – people realize some pretty unrealistic events would have to happen in a set sequence to realize their worst case and this helps to remove the stress. Also, it really helps to know that if you have the FREE things; health, integrity, family and friends – everything else is secondary and even a “worst case” scenario is manageable!
Zig Ziglar likes to say, FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real. I’ve also heard it said that fear is paying interest on a loan you are not even sure you’re going to have. Both suggest the same thing – fear is simply the projection of a future condition which need NOT affect your present situation. Do you want to pay interest on a loan you don’t even have?
“Fear is the path to the dark side, fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” Who wants to be led to suffering? Not me – thank you. Yes, as always, the simple is the profound.
How many things do you control? (We’ll leave this for the comments section and allow you all to answer later)
Stop trying to control the office politics, your boyfriend, the traffic, your friend, girl fiend, etc. Detach. Let them take the house (i know, easy for me to say) but, consider for a moment the freedom – that comes with that statement. what happens to the stress when you say, “take it”. This was shared with a close colleague of mine who was stressed beyond belief. He did lose his home about 5 months ago. today he’s happier than he’s been in a long time.
The stress about losing the home – was far greater then the actual event. Ed side note: since this is likely effecting a lot of people. They were smart and came to the lender proactively – worked on a deal. However, they were unable to short sell. But, they were forthcoming and didn’t run or hide from the lenders. Ultimately they detached and were free from the stress.
#9: ONE SONG
(see picture above) Walk outside- down the street, to a park on the beach. watch the birds – stare at a tree or a flower – recognize the UNI-verse (one song) is in play. It is all working on its own timetable. The tree isn’t stressed it isn’t going to get water tomorrow. you shouldn’t be either.
take a step back. recognize all the other times you thought you were doomed. You remember, you were in such a mess you thought there was no way out – you’d never get a job that good, or meet another person or…. and, you made it out just fine. Perspective always helps in cases of stress by removing the tunnel vision.
Finally, as Keb Mo likes to say “hand it over, get on your knees and pray”. Combined with meditating makes for a powerful calming force. Remember, meditating is listening. Prayer is talking. Since you have two ears and one mouth you should meditate twice as much as you pray.
Be sure to share your tips and comments for others. (Note: no comments no mo’)
Enjoy a happy, stress free fourth. May you be independent of FEAR and responsible for Freedom in all her forms
A brilliant commencement address which, like most things genius, requires not one listen but multiple. And, while I don’t expect you to watch it over and over, my request is that you revisit this in about a month. Tim’s bio and background are here.
A few of the highlights and at the bottom is a link to his personal blog and you can read the entire transcript if you’d like. Enjoy!
1. You Don’t Have To Have A Dream.
I never really had one of these big dreams. And so I advocate passionate dedication to the pursuit of short-term goals. Be micro-ambitious. Put your head down and work with pride on whatever is in front of you… you never know where you might end up. Just be aware that the next worthy pursuit will probably appear in your periphery. Which is why you should be careful of long-term dreams. If you focus too far in front of you, you won’t see the shiny thing out the corner of your eye.
2. Don’t Seek Happiness!
Happiness is like an orgasm: if you think about it too much, it goes away. Contented Australophithecus Afarensis got eaten before passing on their genes. >>NOTE: if we’ve said it once we’ve said it a thousand times in this blog. Happiness is a choice, it’s a responsibility it’s what the Buddha meant when he said, “there is no way to happiness, happiness is the way.” see post)
3. Remember, It’s All Luck
You are lucky to be here. You were incalculably lucky to be born… I suppose I worked hard to achieve whatever dubious achievements I’ve achieved … but I didn’t make the bit of me that works hard, any more than I made the bit of me that ate too many burgers instead of going to lectures while I was here at UWA.
Understanding that you can’t truly take credit for your successes, nor truly blame others for their failures will humble you and make you more compassionate. Empathy is intuitive, but is also something you can work on, intellectually.
>>Comment: Taking credit for even your hard work is fool’s gold. Everything and everyone have helped you to forge that work ethic — take NO credit, remain humble!
I’m sorry, you pasty, pale, smoking philosophy grads, arching your eyebrows into a Cartesian curve… You can’t be Kant, and you don’t want to be.
Play a sport, do yoga, pump iron, run… whatever… but take care of your body. You’re going to need it. Most of you mob are going to live to nearly a hundred, and even the poorest of you will achieve a level of wealth that most humans throughout history could not have dreamed of. And this long, luxurious life ahead of you is going to make you depressed!
But don’t despair! There is an inverse correlation between depression and exercise.
5. Be Hard On Your Opinions
A famous bon mot asserts that opinions are like arse-holes, in that everyone has one. There is great wisdom in this… but I would add that opinions differ significantly, in that yours should be constantly and thoroughly examined.
We must think critically, and not just about the ideas of others. Be hard on your beliefs…Be intellectually rigorous. Identify your biases, your prejudices, your privilege.
Most of society’s arguments are kept alive by a failure to acknowledge nuance. We tend to generate false dichotomies, then try to argue one point using two entirely different sets of assumptions…
By the way, while I have science and arts grads in front of me: please don’t make the mistake of thinking the arts and sciences are at odds with one another….If you need proof: Twain, Adams, Vonnegut, McEwen, Sagan, Shakespeare, Dickens. For a start.
6. Be a teacher.
Please be a teacher! Teachers are the most admirable and important people in the world. You don’t have to do it forever, but if you’re in doubt about what to do, be an amazing teacher.
7. Define Yourself By What You Love
We have tendency to define ourselves in opposition to stuff; as a comedian, I make a living out of it. But try to also express your passion for things you love. Be demonstrative and generous in your praise of those you admire. Send thank-you cards and give standing ovations. Be pro-stuff, not just anti-stuff.
8. Respect People With Less Power Than You.
I have, in the past, made important decisions about people I work with – agents and producers – based largely on how they treat wait staff in restaurants.
9. Don’t Rush.
You don’t need to already know what you’re going to do with the rest of your life… I said at the beginning of this ramble that life is meaningless…
You will soon be dead. Life will sometimes seem long and tough and, god, it’s tiring. And you will sometimes be happy and sometimes sad. And then you’ll be old. And then you’ll be dead.
There is only one sensible thing to do with this empty existence, and that is: fill it!
…life is best filled by learning as much as you can about as much as you can, taking pride in whatever you’re doing, having compassion, sharing ideas, running(!), being enthusiastic. And then there’s love, and travel, and wine, and sex, and art, and kids, and giving, and mountain climbing … but you know all that stuff already.
It’s an incredibly exciting thing, this one, meaningless life of yours. Good luck. Thank you for indulging me.”
Hope that provides you a sense of guidance and strangely comfort ; ) (comfort in the meaningless of it all). In many ways it’s a recipe for happiness and a fulfilling life…
Set goals. Work hard. Go after it. Be humble. Exercise. Assess your own beliefs and opinions regularly. Be a teachers —share your genius. Define self by what you love not what you hate. Respect everyone. Slow down. (you can find the entire transcript here).
There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.
Sounds a little like a Zen riddle, doesn’t it?
And while it may sound to some like some trite slogan, these two sentences carry a world of profound truth in them. One of the saddest things I’ve seen in my life is the amount of depression that people carry with them. And I would know: I suffered from depression throughout my early twenties.
If everyone wants to be happy, then why are so many people depressed?
Well, for starters “happiness” becomes a place or destination that is sought out “somewhere else”. People literally and figuratively seek out happiness throughout their lives. They are searching for it – the next lover, job, house, car, etc and are hopeful that such external pleasures will imbibe them with happiness. Can a new car make you happy? Sure. Such happiness might last a week or it might last a year – but it’ll be temporary. Often there will be such external influences or events in your life that can bring about momentary happiness–but those are likely to leave you – seeking the next happiness “event”. Sadly, in the meantime – you’ll be left feeling empty or lost.
Happiness is an emotion and, therefore, just like any other emotion, is controlled only by you! All such emotions are derived from your thoughts, and there is only one person who is in control or your thoughts!
YOU control of your own happiness! This was very hard for me to wrap my head around, because of its absurd simplicity: Happiness must then be my responsibility and, ultimately, my obligation!
In fact happiness is so essential to a fulfilling life that Aristotle once proclaimed, happiness “as man’s chief aim” in life – “the highest good”.. I was stunned when I read that. Aristotle! I believed great philosophers sat around disgruntled with it all–bored with the minions and upset with mankind for all its continued blunders. Well, that was two thousand years ago so, I’m sure he’d be pleased to see how much progress there has been.
So, let’s just run with our buddy Aristotle and his concept that happiness ought to become your chief aim in life— let’s allow him do our homework (after all he is one of the greatest philosophers of all time). Why not agree with that statement?
Who desires unhappiness? Seriously, nobody I know. Could it be that simple? Could this be yet another “simple, profound truth”?
Let’s dissect it further – Do you not enjoy being with happy people? Aren’t happy people more productive, supportive, generous and loving? And, here is the kicker – as it relates to the 3 Cs of Success … how can any successful person realize his “ideal future” that is, be successful without being happy?
It’s great to hear that you have your “dream” list of goals and material “toys”. It’s pretty exciting to think about the big house you will own and the 4 high performance or luxury cars, maybe even that ridiculous 135 ft yacht, etc. And, there is no reason you shouldn’t have that list. But, there is a different list…
Do me (and you) a FAVOR right now. Consider for a moment, what you would do if you found out you had only ONE day to live. Do you have any idea how you’d spend it? And, here’s the kicker, with WHO would you spend those last precious hours and minutes?
You see, as unfortunate a scenario as that might be, it takes the often muddied waters of our priorities and values and bring them to the fore with pristine clarity. The fact is, your dream mansion would be worthless, your luxury cars or yacht would all have no redeeming value as you said your final goodbyes.
My guess is this; upon finding out you had only A SINGLE DAY TO LIVE, you’d be immediately reaching out to the one’s you love the most. You’d be sharing your deepest feelings of gratitude for their love and friendship and support over the years.
In short you’d dive into LOVE and GRATITUDE. Love for all those who’ve supported you throughout the years and gratitude for the opportunities and relationships that enriched your life.
One day to live would mean
No BullSh*t…. No wasted time
No fake gestures… little to no concern about what other people think
One day to live would mean:
Focusing on the people you love. Sharing your most meaningful thoughts and ideas.
You’d probably identify some regrets and missed opportunities for time squandered—for losing focus on what was truly important in your life. You’d probably even do some last minute mending of fences and going out of your way to reconcile— to leave this world in peace.
If you have truly processed this mental exercise for all that it’s worth you will have a great idea of WHO and WHAT is most important to you and WHY.
Create that list now. Who are the people? What are they experiences and why are they meaningful. Have there been opportunities lost? What are they, can you re-write the outcome. It all begins with clarity.
This post was originally written in early 2008 and was updated after he had his liver transplant in 2009. In light of Mr. Jobs passing, this YouTube video of his commencement address has gone viral – (10Million hits later). We originally shared this video when it was in the low 6 figures. I felt it was important to bring this back to the TOP of the POST pile.
If you haven’t seen this video, it’s extremely worthwhile and the words below are designed to challenge your personal reflection.
Recall Aristotle’s famous quote: “Wisdom is an equal measure of Experience plus Reflection.
E + R = W
Stanford Commencement Address 2005.
Mr. Steven Jobs; Monster-Entrepreneur, Apple & Pixar CEO, Super-Hero Extraordinaire
“Life can only be understood backward, but it must be lived forward.” ~Kierkegaard
Every time I see this speech I’m awed by the number of gems Steve shares. I find it interesting to overlay these anecdotes against the backdrop of my personal experiences. His tales of opportunity, following his heart, continuous learning, failure, humility, and of course, mortality are both profound and inspiring.
However, I ask you, “How unique are they?” Just how rare are these “coincidences?”
The question I encourage you to ask is, “where are the parallels?” Surely you recognize you don’t have to be CEO of a couple fortune 500 companies to notice that, ultimately, the song remains the same; that these synchronistic events happen daily for everyone. The real question is not, “how rare is this?” But rather, “How aware am I to the events and all the possibilities?”
Think about it. One day Jobs is walking eight miles to eat at a Hare Krishna Temple – the next, he’s revolutionizing the computing industry. A slight exaggeration perhaps. However, the point is not to be lost, those were two very real “stations” in his life separated only by awareness, purity of intent and of course time.