Success is in the eye of the Beholder

I recently came across one of Jen Gluckow's posts on Instagram about reflection and recognition of progress. This is something I'd been, well, reflecting on over the prior few weeks, and this was the comment I left on the post...

Before too long, we discover that the mountain we climb does not have a summit. Victory reveals itself when we occasionally look to see how far we’ve come instead of how far we’ve left to go...

Driven people are always looking to get to the next level. Sometimes the consistent drive for more makes it challenging to appreciate how far you’ve come.

There are several reasons reflection is more valuable than worrying about the future.

First, there is no finish line. I recently realized that I have a perception issue. I am chasing a finish line that not only isn’t defined, it doesn’t exist. Having spent most of my professional career constantly pursuing a number, I didn't really know any other way. Now that I don't really have a number (aside from keeping the kids fed and the lights on), I have to define success in a different way. Motivation is not an issue, but how do I measure the outcome? That question made me think, and I think that was the lesson.

Second, success is in the eye of the beholder. What number or outcome are you chasing? Is it worthwhile? Is yours just the job that you have, so you do what you're told so you can hopefully live some version of the life you want? I certainly hope that's not the case, but it's not my job to judge, just to ask you the questions that only you can answer for yourself.

Third, the journey is more meaningful than the outcome. When you remove the concept of a finite finish line, you tend to look at things a lot differently. I've turned my attention instead to the journey. There will be (and have been) ups and downs, peaks and valleys, wins and losses, and they will all have a purpose.

The positives are not there to justify the negatives or vice-versa. Rather, I feel that the two complement each other in ways that lend perspective. If everything was a win, you'd be bored very quickly, and if nothing worked out your way, you'd be completely demoralized. Would you even be able to tell the difference?

Every experience, regardless of the outcome, presents an opportunity to learn. At the end of the day, I think that's what the journey is all about. The people that see the truth in that statement learn a lot, and in my experience with them, seem to be more fulfilled than others. On the contrary, those who don't are often dissatisfied and feel entitled to the wins when they (rarely) come, thereby missing out on the lessons. 

Finally, setbacks make you stronger. This year has not been without setbacks, and I feel what I've taken from those setbacks has been invaluable. You learn a lot about yourself when the chips are down. How will you respond? Can you rally? Can you muster the strength to grow? I know more about what I'm capable of than I did a year ago, and I'm able to push that boundary further now as a result.

There have also been a lot of victories over the past year. The revenue has grown a little, but the growth of my network and the number of significant relationships I've built has been far more valuable. Money's only good for spending, and it cannot replace the enrichment that comes along with real connections with real people. I think that's what business, and life, is really all about.

Success is not about crossing some inanimate finish line or sleeping on a big pile of money. To me, success is showing up every day and doing the work that allows you to connect with and enrich the lives of other people.