A Meditation on Success (#718)

Sunday was Father’s Day here in America, and around 9am, I was lying in bed, pretending not to have been up for hours and wondering if my children were finally reaching an age where breakfast would not be delivered and the handwritten cards I’ve treasured since the day they first started coming would be replaced by a drugstore greeting card and a half-wrapped tie with the price tag still on.

As my mind wandered through the 16 years or so that children have been a part of my life, it also wandered back to last Saturday, part of the final weekend of Supercoach Academy 2010. (And yes, for those of you who’ve been asking, there will be a Supercoach Academy 2011 – details will be coming in the next few weeks!)

Our guest lecturer was the phenomenal Dr. Robert Holden, a man whose work I’m grateful to have come across almost two decades ago and I’m even more grateful to have been able to call my friend for the past six years. And what he delivered over 8 scintillating hours was a meditation on the nature of true success.

We began by sharing our successes from the past week – an easy enough task until you were asked to share a third, fourth, fifth, and sixth example, and your definition of success began to stretch to accommodate the scope and breadth of the exercise. A bit later in the day we shared a “top ten list” of our most meaningful successes, and nearly all of us noticed that when the word “meaningful” entered the equation, our definition of success changed again.

Finally, Robert asked us to write down our own personal definition of success in 25 words or less – an exercise that took people considerably deeper than expected.


Success is…

  • To love and be loved
  • To connect deeply
  • To have fun, and learn heaps
  • To be content, wherever I am

To my surprise, there was nothing in there about achievement or accomplishment, although achievement and accomplishment are certainly common side effects of having fun and learning heaps. But what I realized almost immediately was why the high achievement lifestyle has never really grabbed me by the throat. Because it’s readily apparent to me that despite the hype, my life is no more or less of a success because of the number of boxes I’ve ticked along the way.

As I was thinking about all this, the sound of giggling children and happy teenagers interrupted my meditation, and moments later the door to our bedroom swung open. Before you could say “Happy Father’s Day!”, the bed was filled with people and cats and scrambled eggs and yes, even handmade cards with sentiments that brought tears to my eyes and a smile to my lips.

And I knew that my definition of success in that very moment was exactly what was happening in that very moment.

One of the most popular tips I have ever written was entitled “Have an Average Day!“. It was reprinted in the Utne Reader and the Irish Journal and a number of other publications around the world. It forms the basis for the sixth session of my book Supercoach, and I have received more mail around it than anything else I have written, often from teenagers, college students, young adults, and sometimes even their parents.

I think the reason it speaks to so many people is that they recognize the truth in it – that despite all of our cultural mythology to the contrary, happiness leads to success a heck of a lot more often than success (in the achievement-oriented sense of the word) leads to happiness. Striving and struggling to succeed won’t get you more of what you really want out of life anymore than eating cookies will make you feel loved and whole. It’s a cheap imitation – a poor substitute – and it takes you away from the true wonder and joy that is always on offer and never more than one thought away.

So I hereby make this official declaration:

June 22nd is International “Have an Average Day” Day!

That doesn’t mean don’t go to work if you work – it just means take the day off from trying so hard to be exceptional, brilliant, stunning, and amazing. The truth is, you’ll have better days, and God willing, you’ll have worse ones. And since today is the only day you have any guarantee of, you may as well enjoy it.

There’s no banner to wave and no mailing list to join. If you’d like to tell a few friends about it, feel free to share this tip or point them here; or even write about what it means to you in your own blog or talk about it with a friend.

But more important than any of that, just relax and have an average day. Tell someone you love that you love them. Better yet, give them a hug and share a moment. It doesn’t have to be an exceptional moment – in fact, it might be better if it’s just an average one. Because a series of average moments filled with love may just be the most important secret to a successful life I’ve yet discovered.

Have fun, learn heaps, and may all your success be fun!

With love,

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