“Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.” ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt
I have been trying to figure out what the definition of success for a while. I’ve made videos, Instagram posts, and tweets asking people what their definition of success is. Crickets! Nobody seems to want to answer this question. Or could it be that they don’t know the answer? Does anyone know the answer? One would think that with all the “success” coaches, speakers, courses, books, and whatever else out there, someone would know what success is. The best answer I have so far comes from Vagabonding author Rolf Potts, though I didn’t read it in his book. It was on Tim Ferriss’ podcast where I heard him say it. “The definition of success is being able to do what you want whenever you want to do it.” When I heard this, I thought it was perfect. The best definition I had ever heard anyway.
It had nothing to do with money, status, fame, family, work, or living your dreams, but then it did. This definition of success allows you to define your own success. What you want could be anything — travel, raising a family, buying a car, living in Spain. This definition of success applied to everyone, not just those who wanted to be rich. As perfect as I thought it was, something didn’t settle with me. The only reason I say this is because I kept asking people, what is your definition of success. Hadn’t I found the perfect answer? Then why was I still in search of one?
Do I have a point? I’m not sure really. I do know this, the other night while lying in bed, just moments away from falling asleep I discovered my own definition of success.
The past few articles I have penned have been on this topic. It seems I can’t shut the eff up about it. The reason for this is that I have recently learned what it is I loved to do and started doing it. As a result, it’s like the secrets of life are unfolding just now, at 42, in front of my eyes. This is truly the most beautiful time of my life, and it’s rooted in nothing but me. No dream girl, dream job, or dream anything. I am dependent on nothing for my happiness, and therefore it can’t be taken away.
In my last post, I mentioned the benefits of doing what you love. “A better life” was my response. Pretty general, huh? Well, that’s because I didn’t really know the answer. I was just speculating. My guess is that people who spend time doing what they love become better people overall and as a result, become better husbands, wives, parents, bosses, employees, brothers, cousins, whatever. I think when you do what you love everything in your life will improve thus making your life better overall.
I don’t have scientific studies nor am I backed by experts in the field — field of what I don’t know, but I do have personal examples of what has transpired over the past couple weeks since I decided to concentrate on doing what I love.
Who is that happy little boy?
I saw myself the happiest I had ever seen myself the other day. On a whim not too long ago, I started doing a daily vlog. My goal was for 30 consecutive days. That was in October. I haven’t missed more that two days since and on some days I post two videos. I’m not sure why I do it but someday someone who looks up to me, like maybe a child or grandchild, will want to know what I was like when I was younger (or alive). Because of these videos, I am able to look at myself from the outside, and when I saw the look on my face as I opened the paperback version of my novella, my first fictional piece of work, I almost wanted to cry. I had that look parents look for when their child is opening a gift they had kept secret for so long. The gift he or she wanted but didn’t expect to get. That was me thumbing through my book. I was a happy little boy and seeing myself as such made me feel proud.
My dad was proud of me.
A few days later, I got a Facebook notification of a comment. It was from my dad. The comment was for the very video I mentioned above. It read: I’m proud of you. I hope you do well with this. I had given up a trying to make my dad proud a while ago. David Deida, in his book The Way of the Superior Man, suggests that you live your life like your father is dead. Kind of harsh but I got his point. Stop seeking your father’s approval. Point well taken. Upon hearing this, I put forth the effort not to care what my dad thought. Regardless of all this, when I saw this comment, I broke down and cried. I had been waiting a long time to hear those words, and it came after I decided to do what I love. You see, it wasn’t my attempt at a real-estate career, as a contractor, a personal trainer, a non-fiction author, a trade school instructor, or even a United States Air Force Master Sergeant that warranted the words. It was when I finally started doing what I love.
What’s so damn exciting?
Just the other day, a barista whom I was telling about my follow up a book to Los Chocolates said to me. “I love how excited you get when you talk about your book.” Let me tell you; nothing excites me. Not for many years anyway. For years people have asked me about an upcoming trip or something, “Are you excited?” My answer was always, “no.” Then I would go on about how I learned in the military no to get too excited about something because it can always be taken away. “Until it actually happens, don’t put complete faith that it will.” Stripes, assignments, temporary duty trips, can and do fall through at the last moment in the military. So it seems that now, I get excited when I talk about doing what I love, something that can never fall through.
A mentor was impressed.
This one just happened last night, after I had thought I was done with this post. One of the last business “gurus” I haven’t given up on is Dan Miller. I feel he is honestly trying to help people and not just trying to make a buck. He will often tell people one of his programs is not for them and turn down their money. Last night while listening to the introduction of his most recent podcast, Dan mention he was going to share a message sent to him by someone who decided to stop pursuing money and instead put their effort into doing what they love. I knew he was talking about me. I wrote him an email a while back hoping he would read it on his podcast and maybe direct some buyers to my website. Well, he read it alright. Then he went on. He said that he went to my site, watched my video, and was moved to buy my book. Maybe he didn’t say “moved.” He was, however, inspired to click on the link to my first chapter. He then said something the blew my mind, “I’m gonna read a little bit of it.” He did! My jaw was dropped for the duration as he read the first three paragraphs of my novella. I’ve heard him speak enthusiastically about other people work before, but it’s an entirely different feeling when he goes on about something you have created. (By the way, I have written him before, and he responded on the air with some tough love.) When he finished reading, he made a comment like Wow or Gah-lee and said, “You bet I went over to Amazon and bought his book. I’m gonna read it at lunch today. I have written Dan several times — when I created an “opt in,” when I published my first non-fiction book, when I published my second and third, and then when I had a Kickstarter campaign for merino wool t-shirts. He read them all on the air but never did he react like he did when I shared with him the product that I created out of pure love.
I have more of these “success” stories I can tell you. Recent stories, like within the past day or two, but this article is long enough, and I hope I’ve made my point by now.
I wasted a lot of years pursuing success, and never achieved it. I truly believe the reason was that I didn’t know what success was. Now I do, and now I have it.