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Success Leaves Clues

What is success?  Is it an amount of money?  Is it a title?  “What is success” is not a new question.  Intuitively, we know that success is an individual pursuit.  Unfortunately, too often we contemplate our success through the eyes of others.  We pursue a vision that we don’t own.  If we realize the vision, the feelings we anticipated upon arrival are shallow and short-lived.  Now what?


I recently broke out my journal and asked the question, what is the most common train or characteristic of some of the most admired “successful people”?  Think Warren Buffet, Mother Teresa, Michael Phelps, Oprah Winfrey, Steve Jobs, or Richard Branson.  All of these admired success stories had different starts.  Their success came in different ways.


My thought then transitioned to the people I most admired in my own life.  The not-so-famous success stories that command the same level of respect and admiration as the household names.  In comparing and contrasting, a common trait emerged.  All of these successful people had an unrelenting and consistent desire for growth.  Growth is the common denominator.  They each pursued growth in many aspects of their lives.  They studied and continue to study.  Their pursuit for more centers around being better today than they were yesterday.  They never settle for good enough and never “arrive”.  Successful people have an unquenchable thirst for growth.  Again, success is relative, but you can’t achieve success without growth.  Successful parents don’t settle for being average parents.  Successful teachers pursue new ways of engaging students.  Successful pastors challenge their church members by identifying new ways to serve.


The alternative to growth is stagnation.  Stagnation results in misery and misery loves company.  This is where an overwhelming majority of citizens of the world reside.  They reach a certain level and stop.

There was an experiment conducted with fleas and a jar.  When the jar had no lid, the fleas could easily jump out.  The experimenters put a lid on the jar.  After continuously bumping their heads on the lid, the fleas learned their limit.  When the lid was removed, the fleas continued to jump only as high as where the lid had previously limited them.  There are two points to this story – 1) Fleas can be trained, and 2) Fleas and humans have a great deal more in common than we knew!


We limit our growth when we accept what the world is offering us.  We remain in a dead-end job or stay in an awful relationship because that seems to be the best option.  We are so afraid of the unknown that we accept average or mediocrity.  We fear change more than we want to grow.  None of us want to accept this, but it is the truth.  Successful people struggle just as much as you and I struggle, but they change anyway.  If something is not working in their life, they address it.  They don’t look forward to addressing it, but their drive to grow requires that they address the things that are not working in their lives.

What is not working in your life?  Make a list.  Don’t grovel or whine about this list.  Imagine a next step to address it.  Here is an example: I personally struggle with difficult conversations.  I’m addressing it.  My next step is to immediately address a situation that is not working.  This almost always involves another person, so I will address the situation in a way that honors the other person but clearly addresses the situation.  My tendency is to nibble around the edges but not get to the heart of the matter.  No more.  Now, when there is an issue, I will address it head on with complete respect and honor for the others impacted.


The people we most admire are obsessed with growth.  This is not growth for the sake of growth.  It is growth of self, capabilities, capacity, technique, knowledge, ability, compassion, wisdom, stamina, etc.  Warren Buffet isn’t obsessed with making more money.  He is obsessed with growing his ability to make decisions.  If he masters his ability to make decisions, the money will take care of itself.  Mother Theresa was focused on growing her compassion.  Her capacity to demonstrate compassion for another person grew far beyond our comprehension.  She never stopped increasing her compassion for another human.  Oprah Winfrey, born into poverty with limited hope, had a dream.  She did not grow her anger for her situation.  She grew her capacity to empathize with people.  The key to her success has been empathy.  When people know you care, they will tell you anything.  She grew in many other areas of her life, but her focus was her ability to empathize with another person.


What is your super power?  What are you doing to grow?


Success leaves clues and the most successful and admired people and organizations are obsessed with intentional growth.  They don’t seek more of the external stuff.  They seek growth in their abilities.  Growing their abilities differentiates them from all others in their space.  The others are stagnant.  Stagnation leads to misery and dissatisfaction with one’s life.  What should be growing?  Plant the seed in fertile ground, nurture it daily, water it, obsess over it, and the level of satisfaction with your life will grow exponentially.  If you plant it and it grows but your satisfaction is not growing, you planted the wrong seed.  Plant a seed that is better aligned with who you are, nurture it, and satisfaction will follow.  Humans don’t lack capacity.  We are only limited by our self-imposed constraints.

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