What is success? Money, fame, power?
These are popular notions of success reinforced by a celebrity obsessed media driven by competition and conspicuous consumption.
What is less popular to talk about is that these outward indicators of what we call success are seldom achieved, much less sustained, without first having a solid foundation of inward success.
To illustrate the real meaning of success and the best way of achieving it, one of the world’s most iconic leaders, John F. Kennedy, had some very profound words that resonate today and will reverberate through the ages.
It is well known that JFK came from a well to do family but his life is also a study in service and transcendence. Throughout his adult life, he suffered from debilitating back pain, aggravated by his heroic deeds during WWII.
His wealth and privilege could have kept him from having to serve on active duty. Most people with excruciating health issues but a comfortable inheritance would have taken it easy.
But he was motivated by higher ideals than material possessions and comfort, so he transcended the pain and any other obstacle he encountered.
JFK’s idea of success was a life of self-fulfillment through service to others.
He had an eloquent understanding of the human condition and he always drew the best feelings out of people, and that alone is enough to say that JFK was a highly successful human being, despite what other flaws he may have had.
The physical life of this magnificent spirit was cut way too short, but his words live on to inspire us…..
“Those who dare to fail miserably can achieve greatly.”
It is truly a shame that so many go through life without pursuing their real dreams due to a fear of failure. The ego says “If I do this and fail, they will laugh at me, they will call me a loser.”
It takes daring to achieve great success. You have to go out beyond where others are afraid to go. But listen to that inner voice. If your inner voice says go, then go. When you take your last dying breath, do want to say you aspired to greatness or accepted mediocrity?
Success requires the willingness to put yourself out there and withstand the ridicule of failure on your first, second, and third attempt. You will achieve the life of your dreams once you accept failures as stepping stones toward your ultimate goal.
“I’m an idealist without illusions”
This quote pairs perfectly with the one above. Dare to dream big but do your homework and get a firm grip on what is possible and what is not.
There is no such thing as an “overnight success.” Virtually any overnight success you hear about was paired with the months and years of preparation you did not hear about.
The pursuit of happiness is a journey with some conditions that are unchangeable.
Just remember that when outer conditions cannot be changed, the one thing you can always change is your inner condition and by doing so, you are taking one more significant step toward success.
“Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction”
What is your purpose? Do you know what it is? Is it to be an accountant with 100 satisfied clients? Is it to be a Mom with two happy, well-rounded kids? Is it to simply be someone who brings a smile to another person’s face every single day?
No one purpose is better than the other. Success just requires that you have your own personal purpose and that you apply your efforts and courage toward it. Do this consistently and you will succeed.
Mere survival takes a lot of effort and courage but has no purpose. If all you want to do is survive, then you can expend a lot of energy going from task to task and you will survive. But to thrive, you must have a purpose that pulls you forward rather than spinning you around in a circle day after day.
Changing your direction from time to time is fine, and often necessary, but you’ve got to know which way you are headed from where you’re standing now.
“Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth”
If you desire a life of freedom and growth, then go in the opposite direction of conformity.
Conformity is obedience to the norm, acquiescence to the crowd, submission to convention, and resignation from your life force.
You were not born into this life to be the same as everyone else. Think about it. What if everything in life was the same? It would be dull and uninteresting. Likewise, when you chose conformity, you choose dullness, a life with no flavor.
This doesn’t mean you have to be outlandish or outspoken. It just means that you should be you. Look within for guidance, not without. Just be authentic and not a facsimile of what someone else thinks you should be.
Follow, honor, and celebrate that thing which makes you unique, and success will find you in uncommon hours.
“We would like to live as we once lived, but history will not permit it.”
Kennedy was referring to history at large but the same principle applies to our personal lives.
The world around us changes dynamically hour by hour, year by year. So as individuals we must adapt dynamically or be left behind. You can ride the flow to untold destinations or you can resist the flow and get drowned by it.
Look to nature for all the evidence you need. Ancient trees shed their leaves every year in order to grow greener ones. Old foxes shed their scraggly winter coat for a lighter summer coat. The old caterpillar doesn’t stay locked in her cocoon for fear of living, she emerges to take flight on fancied wings and drink the nectar of a thousand flowers.
When you refuse to change, you refuse to live. Success does not accept obstinance.
“The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.”
If you don’t patch that hole in the roof, each time it rains, the hole gets bigger and bigger, and soon enough the whole thing caves in making your house unlivable.
What hole in your life can be repaired before it’s too big to repair? Could it be your health? Your relationship? Your general attitude toward life?
It is so much easier to fix a small thing than a big one. You say you don’t have time now while the sun is shining but how much more time will you have when the thunderclouds are forming?
The wisest among us keep tabs on every little shingle and when one needs fixing they fix it, and never meet with complete disaster.
“We must use time as a tool, not as a couch.”
Your time here is limited and you can use it for whatever you want. If you want to get more out of it, just know what you’re using it for.
When you say…
- “This is my time to rest”, then rest and don’t let cell phones distract you.
- “This is my time to work and create”, then tend to your work with joy and don’t allow mindless chatter hinder you.
- “This is my time to play”, then play with abandon without a care in the world.
There’s this thing called multi-tasking that sells millions of pills from thousands of pharmacies day after day.
Be mindful instead, do the things that really matter, and you will have more inner peace.
I think JFK would say that if you’re doing something that really matters to you, and you give it your whole mind, your whole heart, and your whole soul, then you’re on the surest path to success.