This will be a break from my normal type of writing.
Before I begin, let me state emphatically that I understand that success is due to many factors. Some of them are beyond our control and some are totally dependent on the direct intervention of God Himself. I get that God has a part to play in all things and all things should ultimately serve Him. I understand that other people along the way do have a role to play in my life and success. Everything I achieve is largely dependent on the team that surrounds me. I get all those things.
I want to talk about what my part is. What is the role of the individual in an individual’s success? While I acknowledge we are totally dependent on God’s blessing for success, I would also acknowledge that I can, by my own choices, really mess things up in a hurry.
God puts dreams in our hearts. Psalm 37:4 says, “Take delight in the LORD and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Many people interpret that verse to say that if you are “spiritual” enough then God will give you what you want. I see it very differently. As we walk with the Lord, and the closer we walk with Him, God puts dreams in our hearts. Some of those are audacious dreams. For some, it is about helping in a social justice non-profit. For others, it is starting a massive corporation and making millions or even billions of dollars. For some, they revel in the thought of repetition of a task while others need variety. Whether middle management or assembly line, artist, musician, or engineer — whatever makes you tick — fulfillment in any life pursuit can only happen when I am doing something that lines up with my design and my desire.
What happens over time is that we begin to settle, survive, and believe that our dreams are out of our reach. Life happens, responsibilities consume us, the tyranny of the urgent takes control. Our dreams die, and with them a little piece of our own souls die.
I often hear from leaders that if someone else did “X” (whatever “X” is), then I would be able to do my stuff. I want to scream at people who make this statement. Not out of anger, but from a deep sadness because they rob themselves of success in the things they give their lives to. My success in taking hold of the dreams God has placed in me will never rise and fall on anyone else.
So here are some keys to filter through your psyche to see if there are ways each of us can personally grow.
- Be thankful. Ingratitude is cancer for your dreams. Be thankful for everything, not just the big successes. Be thankful when your spouse makes a meal. Be thankful when your kids clean their room. Be thankful when someone asks you how you are doing. Be thankful all the time. Maybe even keep a thankfulness journal to help you get into the habit of looking for things to be thankful for. I learned this from my good friend Shane. He has taught me over and over the power of thankfulness. And I am so grateful to him for that. I have seen the true beauty of the life around me because my perspective has shifted as a result of his influence in my life. Thankfulness is contagious.
- Stop complaining. Gary Vaynerchuk says the quickest tell on whether someone is a team player or not is if they complain. He says complaining is a zero-return investment. Truthfully, anyone can be a critic. That is easy. Stay positive and focused on solutions.
- Networking is the currency of leadership. Social capital is the top priority of those who want to lead well. Say hello to everyone. Smile, hug (appropriately), laugh, joke, inspire, compliment. Do those often. I understand the trouble with having an intense personality. It is a fight I struggle with daily. But as we grow in leadership, we have to grow in our ability to relate to others well. Further, connecting people to each other and getting others to expand the value of one another only helps me achieve my dreams, as well.
- Rethink success. What does success really look like? Is it a dollar amount? Is it a product amount? Or is there something deeper? Consider the “triple bottom line.” What is good for the company, the investors, and the environment? What would give my success real meaning? Would a car be meaningful, or knowing that my success helped someone else?
- Always be measuring your social impact. I hate this one. It is so hard to come to terms with how much we can affect others. I am just me. I am no big deal. That is probably true, but the impact I can have in the lives of others is pretty staggering. Checking back often with people to see how the relationship stands is critical to forward momentum.
- Remember that success comes over the long haul. Nothing worth doing comes quickly. If this is your dream, stay at it. Whether the dream is being thinner or building a company, consistent decisions in a singular direction are key to your success. Hang in there. The tipping point could be just around the corner.
Hopefully we can continue to inspire one another as we all work toward making a dent in achieving the best version of the life God intends for us.