Success is often talked and written about, but what exactly does it mean? Is it just another word for fame? Is it really about dominating the workplace? Driving the coolest car, having the most children? And who is one’s comparison group: peers, oneself, one’s superiors, one’s community? How about money: is the accumulation of it synonymous with success? Being a good person, and leaving the world better than one found it? I recently finished the older but still relevant book True Success, by the philosopher, one-time Notre Dame professor, person of faith, and values guru, Tom V. Morris. I will share some of the quotes from his book in this blog, this being the first: “To the extent that we want to have goals that are right for us and that will help make the contribution we are put in this life to make, we can be said to have as a goal true success.”
Life is risk. Now, I’m not just talking about bungee jumping, skydiving, open-heart surgery, or vacations in the Middle East. Everyday life is risky. But the risks are so common, we’re so accustomed to them, they hardly ever cross our minds. Until we contemplate something new. A new job, a new relationship, a new strategy, a new set of goals. Then we worry. “What if I fail?’ “What if I make a fool of myself?’
Whenever we set ourselves new goals we believe in, higher goals we aspire to, and whenever we face new opportunities for growth and development, it is easy for doubt to rush in and catch up with us. It grabs us tight and tries to hold us back. Fear of the new. Fear of the unknown. Fear of change. Fear of risk. Fear of failure. Fear of embarrassment.
It’s easy to underestimate the power of negative thinking. It has tremendous power for ill in our lives. A great many people live in the self-imposed imprisonment of low expectations about life. Their negative thinking robs them of the wealth of experience and accomplishment that should be theirs. And an increasing body of literature from physicians, psychologists, and careful observers of the human condition warns us that negative thinking can rob us of our health, and even our lives.
Often, we want proof, or at least good evidence, before we’ll believe in something, especially when the stakes are high. But what about believing in ourselves? If we want more out of life than we have been experiencing, if we want to give much more to this life than we have yet been able to give, then we need a new vision for our lives. Even having these desires can mean we are already reaching out toward a new vision. We need new goals, higher goals. But we can never expect to stretch ourselves to reach those goals unless we believe in ourselves.
Confidence is that feeling by which the mind embarks in great and honorable courses with a sure hope and trust in itself. (Cicero)
A lack of failure in a person’s life often indicates a lack of effort, a policy of playing it safe. It usually signals a lack of risk-taking, a dearth of innovation and experiment. People who are stretching themselves, trying new things, and setting high goals will try some dead-end streets along the way. At least they’re out there moving, searching, testing and learning. A lack of failure can even be the greatest failure – in the life of a business or in the life of an individual.
The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials. (Confucius)
When I was growing up my mother used to comfort me in times of difficulty and apparent failure by saying, “Whenever you’re disappointed, tell yourself there’s something bigger and better for you ahead.” Keep the faith. Forge ahead. Think long term. My mother’s long-term optimism has proved itself again and again as I have applied it in my own life. When our dreams seem to be going down the drain, we need to transcend the present moment and bet on the future.
It’s important that you communicate confidence to yourself through positive self-talk. Frequently. On a regular basis. And also, by launching out and acting the way confidence would act. By so doing, you strengthen and deepen both your confidence and its grip on your life.
I’ve known dreamers who lived within the confines of condition one and never got out to accomplish anything in the real world. Their imaginations were in gear. Their visions were vivid. But they never took the first step from their dreams toward their goals.
We need a focused concentration on what it takes to reach our goal. How do we get from here to there? How do we get from where we are to where we want to be? A lot of people do seem to think that in this life you can just “name it and claim it,” that you can simply jump from A straight to Z. But that’s not the way it works in our world. Anyone who’s lived long enough and who has reflected sufficiently on their experience really knows this.
Good things rarely just happen. We make our own breaks. We bring them about by planning- and acting in the right way at the right time. Sometimes we just need to forget the odds and follow our hearts full speed ahead. Good fortune comes to those who prepare for it and who are moving in its direction.
When I was in college I decided that I wanted to become a thinker and a doer, a philosopher who could make a difference in this world. I took courses and read books that would prepare me for this goal. I entered the best graduate program I could find for pursuing my goals. I talked to wise people. I worked hard in two departments at Yale to become on the second person ever to earn a Ph.D. jointly in Religious Studies and Philosophy, so I would make sure I had all the Ultimate Questions covered. I prepared for years to teach and to write, to discover and learn and lecture.
Everything we do can be, in one way or another, preparation for what we can contribute in this life. The good we do, and even the mistakes we make, can prepare us for greater good.
I can not stress too much the importance of deliberate, thoughtful, specific, creative preparation for any success we hope to attain.
Prepare to make the most of who you are! Prepare to become the best that you can be! Prepare to do what you are uniquely capable of ding, and then prepare to enjoy the tremendously satisfying feeling of real success in your life that will result.
Many people think that the key to success is to work hard. And that is important. Very important. But it’s more important to work smart. The Greek mathematician Archimedes invented the lever and the pullet. Overcome with a sense of the importance of the principles of leverage, he was known to go about saying, “Give me a place to stand, and I will move the earth.”
We need to figure out how to work smart toward our goals. How to make the most of what we have, what we are, and what we know. Knowledge itself is leverage. And with the right knowledge of what we need, even the smallest of subsequent preparations can lead to great results.
The months of time eat away at the fabric of our lives unless we take action and seek to make things happen. Don’t wait for opportunity to knock on your door. Get out, take action, and knock on doors yourself. That’s how opportunity is to be found.
We have a limited amount of time in this world to do the good we are here to do. It makes no sense just to gloat along. To wander. To procrastinate. It makes no sense not to take action.
Many of the most important relationships in my life have been developed because I took some initiative that took courage, however small a measure. I didn’t just go with the flow, I took a risk. I launched out in action with a phone call, or a letter, or a one-on-one conversation. And it hasn’t usually been very easy. But it’s often been very worthwhile.
You are reading quotes about success from philosopher Tom Morris.
HERE is another blog about success, Tom Morris, and so on
We learn as we go. And if we’re willing to adjust course, we can benefit immensely from what we learn. There is information we can’t process unless we’re engaged in the process of working toward our goals. It is information sparked by our efforts striking obstacles in our path. And it is a view of new possibilities we see only as we move in the direction of our dreams. Some things that glittered from a distance may dull as we approach, and other things that might have seemed dull from far off may begin to sparkle brightly as we draw near.
…One of the surprisingly successful groups of people in the recent American life have been the survivors of Nazi concentration camps in the Second World War. In a book by Dr. William B. Helmreich, Against All Odds: Holocaust Survivors and the Successful Lives They made in America, this group is compared with European Jews of the same age who came to the United States before the war. With less education on average, the survivors were nonetheless more successful in their careers and enjoyed higher incomes. They also contributed more of themselves in voluntary community work. In trying to identify the qualities that set them apart and made them such successful people, after having lived apart and made them such successful people, after having lived through such trauma, Dr. Helmreich specified that high on the list were a readiness to take the initiative in a new endeavor, and an ability to adjust and adapt to changing circumstances.
It is not a mark of weakness but of strength to rethink one’s path or policies. The wise person understands that the best plans are based on incomplete knowledge as he puts his plans into action. It only makes sense to revise our plans in light of our ongoing experiences. The person who cannot do this is more often than not trapped by his own insecurity.
Expect the unexpected. This is one of the best pieces of advice about life that anyone can ever give, or live. This world of ours is so complex and dynamic, ever-changing at an increasing pace, that it would be quite surprising if we weren’t surprised on a regular basis by the things that come our way. We have to be prepared for the unanticipated turns and twists of events that take us places we hadn’t planned to go. We have to be prepared for detours on our path to success. There is rarely ever a perfectly straight line to get from A to Z.
A bumper sticker on a construction worker’s truck shouted out to me one day that shit happens. Too bad that it was parked in my driveway. And that it offered a fairly accurate commentary on the daily turn of events during the remodeling work we were having done. The bumper sticker in its own blunt way stated a common truth in the world of human affairs.
What seems very bad at the time can indeed turn out to be very good in the end. A detour is, after all, nothing more than a different way to get where we’re going. We just can’t usually see it as it as such unless we have that goal clearly in view and we understand the unavoidable unpredictability involved in any interesting journey.