I’m Successful! Right?

I had a lot of drive time today. Murph and I went from Bozeman, MT to Spearfish, SD in a day. This was one of my longest driving days so far. We’ve officially been in 9 states over the 13 days of our road trip. Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Wyoming and now South Dakota! Lots of miles for a pup and his dad!

I listened to quite a bit of music along our journey today, of course. I also listened to a couple of podcasts to mix things up. Christine Hassler recently published a podcast called Letting Go of Certainty to Pursue Your Calling with Kristen. Ultimately, the podcast was a good dialogue between two pretty successful women, both heavily involved with speaking, coaching and serving others. They brought up success and what quantifies it during their discussion. This of course got me thinking. I liked and agreed with their sentiment from the limited time they spent on the subject. I want to take it a step further.

Ironically, I’ve had many conversations with a friend lately about success and what is “enough” when it comes to life, work, money, tangible items, etc.. I’ve written about this subject in the past, yet feel an urge to dive deeper using my own experience for perspective.

At a young age I was wired to please. I’ve described why in detail in a previous post: The Death of “My” Salesman. I have undoubtably been wired as a “doer” throughout adulthood. I’ve been recognized over the past 12 years for many career achievements. I’ve stood on stage to accept awards and to give speeches. I’ve been on quite a few trips won via various contests. I’ve done well enough for myself financially, mostly due to a consistent high activity based sales model that I adopted as my own. I was a grinder with a genuine desire to help people, and a good communicator, which spelled “successful” in the business I’m in. Most people would consider my path pretty successful, yet for some reason I never really felt that way, regardless of which trophy was added to my bookshelf.

Okay, about money. Earning a good living gives flexibility and lifestyle options. I believe people who work hard should be compensated well, especially if they’re doing a solid and honest job. I want to preface the whole money thing because I realize it’s a necessity, and I’m sure there are a broad range of income earners reading this. I won’t apologize the living I make, as I know how many early mornings and late nights it took to get to this place in life. My perspective however is that success is not in direct alignment with one’s bank account balance. Success isn’t about how many speeches you give, how many awards sit on your office shrine, or how many contests you win. This is a newly adopted vantage point for me.

Here’s how I know. I intentionally took a step back from the hustle and bustle of the new client chase in my business this year. I been especially focused on helping and serving the clients we already have, while intentionally limiting any new people walking through our doors looking for our guidance. I’m not chasing this year as I have every year for over a decade. I did this because I felt I needed to hit the pause button in life. I had my “best performance year ever” again last year, and after hitting this new milestone many of the past several years, I realized that this was a never-ending cycle. I firmly believe the merry-go-round of “best years ever” and “moving up the ranks” are short-term fulfillment chases. I realized that if I continue to set higher goals at work, and these achievements were a primary source of validation, I was setting myself up for a losing proposition regardless of the outcome.

Let me explain…

Let’s say I set a big goal and really focus on DOING EVEN MORE than the year prior. Let’s say I hit all of these BIG GOALS- YAY! The clock strikes midnight on the new year and I instantly feel the painful necessity of needing to do EVEN MORE over the following 12 months. I literally soak in my accomplishments for a few hours, perhaps a few days, before returning to the trenches to DO MORE & GET MORE.. AGAIN… and AGAIN…

Let’s say the opposite happens. Let’s say I set these big goals but I miss the mark. Let’s say I unintentionally take a step backwards and have the emotional let down of failure, which doesn’t sit well with a “Type-A” guy who is wired to achieve. I’m ultimately disappointed and most likely don’t even take the time to appreciate the accomplishments I did experience, or the good work I put forth. I’m also not getting the validation from others or myself because I “failed” to DO MORE! I’m miserable.

Regardless of what happens in the above scenarios I’m going to lose because I’m chasing validation via “doing more” every year. I’m chasing worthiness by accomplishing more each year, by hearing the “atta boys” from others and from consistent recognition. I’m chasing the yearning I have internally for purpose, joy and true fulfillment with things lacking sustainability.

Do you want to know when I’ve felt most successful as a professional? THIS YEAR! That’s right, the year I intentionally stopped chasing more and more. The year I started to focus on my faith, self-love, growth and a balanced life for myself is the one year I feel most proud of. I am proud for taking this road trip around our beautiful country, and I can tell you, it’s amazing! I’m proud of myself for shelving others’ opinions of me amidst this growth/transformative period of prioritization. I’m proud of myself for loving me and for the discontinuation of living through my perceived lens of how others must view me. I’m happy to report that I haven’t looked at a report measuring me against my peers at work for months. I could care less about where I stand amidst others anymore, even with a competitive mentality engrained in me for decades. Finally, I’m not in the “high school” world of who is the “cool kid” at work anymore, which is often translated by who is achieving the most, finishing first or making the most money. This is the year I’m proud of myself because my priorities are finally different, in a good way. Faith, authenticity, experiencing more joy, mental health, physical health, no more comparisons or recognition chasing.

I believe the problem with many sales models is the reason so many are attracted to these jobs, and also why they never leave. The “just go do it again and do it better” mentality is a vicious cycle. Besides the emotional roller coaster and lack of real long term fulfillment, often times these positions don’t allow us to actually dig deep and find out what TRULY provides the true long-lasting fulfillment we all crave! Often times this chase keeps us from doing other things that we love as well, or from trying to explore paths that cater to our true joy.

Success to me: Spiritual growth via a deepening relationship with God. Be myself. Do things that provide true joy, like learn the guitar and take a road trip for seven weeks. Stop viewing myself through my perception of what others think of me! Run my own race with my own purpose. Be healthy mentally and physically. Take on new challenges that others might find crazy, yet do it for myself, not for any recognition or awards. Explore. Be adventurous. Start a blog and write to express myself. Sing loudly. Spend time with my aging dog while I still can. Be kind and lend an ear. Forgive others and myself. Be present. Enjoy the moment. Don’t worry about the past or the future. Love as much like Jesus does as I’m capable. Experience life. Earn an honest living. Utilize the strengths and passions God gifted me with. These are successes to me.

Do you ever feel like no matter how well you do, you’re not doing enough? Are you stuck in the merry-go-round of achievement chasing? Do you feel like your priorities are in check? Maybe pause and reflect, perhaps reset. Signing off from South Dakota!

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