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How do you see “success”?

Infographics – I love ‘em, but particularly like this one, ripped off of someone named Lauren Fleischman – and yes, if I had cable I’d probably know who that was! I don’t even remember how I got to her site, but she seems like not only a great athlete, but an intelligent one who is grounded – and not just by her Nikes…

Lauren’s graph of success/not success doesn’t go in a straight line, and that really speaks to me. We’ve all seen graphs or made mental ones in our heads – we’re always being told that success comes if you work hard, yada, yada, yada – but what NOBODY tells you is that there’s no place at which to arrive, you’re always arrive-ing.

We’ve all heard the advice – from Buddha and Einstein and John Lennon – and, by the way NONE of those people could ever have said all the wise things they’re supposed to have that run through your Facebook feed, could they? Could someone please check on this? It’s been bugging me… where was I?

Oh, the advice to “enjoy the journey”, “be in the moment” – I believe we’ve all gotten the message now, thank you! Despite the fact that it’s only human nature to anticipate the fun party or vacation, or dread finals or taxes, most of us can grasp the fact that NOW is a good place to be most of the time…

But, more difficult, it seems to me, is that when you DO finally get that degree, that job, win that contest or that particular someone – it’s not always nirvana. Some days you still struggle with bad weather, dark moods, and the wrong coffee order. Some days the one you love wakes up on the wrong side of the bed. And there are always taxes!

Even worse, you get that awesome job and then aren’t sure how to do it, or whether your boss likes you, or whether the company is going to go belly up next year due to forces completely beyond your control. You may be the winner in this contest and not even place the next time.

Look at Lauren’s infograph of her (so far) career highs and lows – all that talent and training and corporate sponsorships and highs such as “USA Champ” and “7th in World”, but also

  • she was too small for softball, which I guess is what she started out wanting to play
  • she broke her foot and missed the Olympics – no, wait, she broke her foot TWICE and missed TWO Olympics!
  • she refers to all of 2009 as her “year of poop”
  • and there’s something about an IT band in 2012?

So when all that happens, are you still a success?

Think about that for a minute. Let it soak in because the way you answer that is going to change the way you look at life.

If you’re only “in it to win it” you’re going to quit at some of these things – when you choke on a race, or when your corporate sponsorships start questioning you and pulling out, or when you don’t get that loved one to love you back in just the way you want them to.

Lauren goes into a blog diatribe of disappointment about Lance Armstrong – I probably don’t know enough about sports to have an opinion, but it seems to me that if you don’t love your work, or you’re just “in it to win it”, or maybe you simply don’t know that success isn’t a smooth ride, you’re more likely to end up like Lance, and disappoint someone like Lauren…

But if you’re in it because living itself is meaningful, and you’re just doing the best you can despite the highs and the lows and learning to even disregard those things – that’s when I admire you, that’s when you’re a success.

Ironically, you don’t even need me to admire you at that point – you’re just doing work because you love it.The idea that loving your work ALWAYS leads to immediate, lasting, and recognized success is the one we have to change – and maybe, just maybe, our idea of success has to change…

My grandfather loved poetry and he really liked the old Victorian like Rudyard Kipling – I can still hear him recite “If”:

“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same”

Somehow, I think Lauren would agree with Rudyard – someone who finds their work meaningful is going to have a graph of ups and downs instead of a straight, smooth line, plateauing at the top – and maybe not even see them as ups and downs but lively squiggles along the race (did you see how I brought it back in to sports there? I know – impressive!)

What do you think? Me, I’m already visualizing the strange loops and swirls of my own path – colorful and crazy – and way more fun than any boring old straight line!




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Kristen Harris —

Interesting read! Love it!

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