This weekend, my friend Robert Holden has been guiding our Supercoach Academy students through an exploration of and inquiry into the nature of success. Through a series of discussions, exercises, and meditations, we’ve been defining and discovering what success means to us and to our clients and how that deeper understanding impacts the way we live and work.
One of the exercises we did was to sit with a partner and share ten “meaningful successes”, each one accompanied by an explanation of what it was about it that made if seem meaningful to us. While we had already explored “success” as a general concept, somehow delving deeper into this particular “flavor” of success brought out something more.
While I highly recommend doing the exercise for yourself, ideally with a friend or partner, here are three of my most meaningful successes that were somewhat surprising to me as they emerged from out of the inquiry…
1. The Stonewall
When I was a teenager, the stonewall beside our driveway collapsed and for reasons that must have made sense to him at the time, my father hired me to repair and replace the wall as needed.
Now, outside of a Pinewood Derby car I carved out of a block of wood with a Snoopy bubble bath shampoo head and a machine tool weighted chassis, I had never built anything in my life. But I accepted the challenge and to everyone’s surprise including my own, a month or so later we once again had a wall of inter-linking natural stones that rose up from the driveway to the back yard. Better still, the wall is still standing proud nearly 30 years later.
Why is that success still at the forefront of my mind even after decades of what other people would describe as more meaningful or impactful successes in the world?
Perhaps it was because I felt that my father, who made his living as an engineer and in my young eyes could make anything out of anything, was truly proud of me. But I suspect it was something more than that. Up until that point, I didn’t know I was capable of much of anything beyond changing channels on the TV or getting good grades in school. And as my mentor Bill Cumming often says, the only two things that are required for someone to change their lives are the knowledge that they are loved absolutely and the experience of creating something recognized as valuable by themselves.
My wife was having coffee with friends the other day when one of them asked her the “secret” to our relationship. Uncomfortable as I’m sure she was with the question, I liked her answer – that the closest thing we have to a secret is that we prioritize one another. Not “over the children” or “more than ourselves”, as if the only choice was to value things hierarchically one over the other, but “underneath everything” – as a foundational commitment that all the other things in our lives are built on top of.
It feels odd to call my relationship with Nina a “success’, as that suggests more of a sense of accomplishment about it than I actually feel. There’s been an awful lot of grace and an awful lot of Nina that’s gone into making the 23 years we’ve gotten the chance to spend together so wonderful.
But what’s meaningful about it is what being with her has allowed me to do. She has been my rock, my inspiration, my coach, and at times my conscience as I’ve moved forward in my life and my career. And what I will take some credit for is recognizing just how important our connection is, and making sure that connection is never (OK, rarely 🙂 sacrificed in support of a more temporary milestone or achievement.
3. Following my Path
One of the distinctions Robert made during our weekend was between the drive for uniqueness, which comes from the personality, and the call to authenticity, which comes from the soul. The irony, of course, is that inner authenticity shows up in the world as individual uniqueness.
Almost all of the “cultural success” I have achieved in the world, from speaking around the world to writing bestselling books to earning ‘big money’ coaching, have come about as the result of one simple choice – to follow the quiet voice of wisdom inside me and let the chips fall where they may.
This is why so few of these achievements made my top ten list of meaningful success – not because I’m not proud of them, but because they were simply the result of following an inner sense of direction when everything around me (including the other voices in my head) were pointing me towards other paths and more logical and predictable seeming possibilities.
The success that is meaningful to me is that I’ve been able to not only let my life speak, but also to listen when it does.
Have fun, learn heaps, and may all your success be meaningful, both to you and to the world in which you live….