“What’s money? A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to.” (Bob Dylan)
I’ve had a tough time with that Bob Dylan quote ever since I saw it on the Jack’s Winning Words blog. Dylan was a pop-culture giant of the era that I grew up in and had a massive influence on the music of the time; but he was a crappy philosopher if he believed that quote. One can make a quote like that only if one has enough money already to have become a cynic.
If I were to modify Dylan’s quote, so that it makes more sense to me it would read, “A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he can to make others’ lives better.”
Success isn’t about money. That part I think Dylan had right. It isn’t about possessions or titles or power. Success is about being well thought of by others because you cared and you helped. Success is about being happy with yourself at the end of the day because you know that you gave it your best effort and got as much done as you could. Success is seldom measured in the miles that you’ve traveled, but rather in the few inches of progress that you’ve made. Accolades and applause are external things that sometimes come with it, but success really is an internal thing in which you take your own measure of what you’ve accomplished verses what you set out to do. If you’ve set the bar high for yourself, successes are just progress reports along the way to that higher goal.
Sometimes we take on things that we know going in we cannot beat. Worthy causes like overcoming world hunger or finding the cure for cancer or ending domestic violence are just too big for any one person to be able to claim success; however, if you define a reasonable role for yourself – maybe in terms of fund raising for a charitable organization that is fighting the fight, or maybe in terms of personal service to the cause; you can reach your personal goals and justifiably declare yourself to be a success. It is important to pause after those little successes and celebrate, before taking on the next goal. Just as I have opined here in the past about liking yourself; it is important to reward yourself for success in achieving your goals.
So, every night, as you end the day, reflect on the little personal successes that you’ve had. Successes don’t always have to be defined in terms of external things or causes; they may be as small as not eating that second donut in your effort to lose weight or maybe making that extra little effort at the gym. Acknowledge yourself and your efforts. Celebrate your little successes and then plan to build on them for tomorrow. There is an old saying about success building upon success; and that can become true in your life.
Many times, if your focus is on things other than yourself, it may be hard to see anything of any significance that you accomplished during the day towards that bigger, external goal. Maybe you didn’t collect a single dime of donations or help a single needy person; however, if you were out there spreading the word about the need you have been successful. If you educated one person who didn’t know about or understand the cause or the need, you have been successful. If, through your actions and deeds, you have influenced one more person to join the cause, you have been successful.
So, how do you define being successful? Are you still measuring your success against some monetary goal? Is getting that new car or that bigger house the key to your success? Is getting to that executive level job the only way that you will be successful in your mind? Is having power success for you? So, why are you not smiling? Did that last raise or promotion bring you the feeling of success that you were seeking; or did it just leave you with that empty feeling that there must be more to life that just those pursuit of those things.
The good news is that there is more to life and it has little to do with most of what you may have been chasing in your pursuit of success. The other good news is that there is a great book for you to read as a guide to achieving the success that you long for – it’s called the Bible. The bad news is that the author of most of the advice in that great book was not impressed with material things. In fact he advised those who would follow him to sell all that they had and give the money to the poor. You may not have to go that far, but you do need to do a radical reset of what you define as success in life. A favorable side-effect of doing that is that what makes you happy in life also gets reset. In the end, you may well be living your life by this philosophy – “A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he can to make others’ lives better.”
Strangely enough,your life will get better, too; and you will feel like a success.