007: ON SUCCESS & WHY IT’S A SCAM
Love, Dad, is a real-life series of ongoing letters to my children. While these letters are intended to be read by them later in life, I feel that many of us — parents and non-parents alike — connect with the stories and moments that forever bond us to those whom we love.
In this week’s letter I discuss success and how I stumbled into an early definition of what success is and looks like. I then share how I’ve evolved that early definition to meet me where I am today while also issuing a challenge to my 2 little ones.
Hallie & Graham,
I don’t remember being taught what success is or how to obtain it. In thinking back, there was never an “a-ha!” moment of realization. Instead, my understanding of what success is was more akin to that of a drunken stumble to an adolescent awakening obtained by observing the world around me.
And so I went, plotting a path through life using things like money, recognition and possessions as my markers of success and progress. These are things I witnessed around me from my classmates to professional athletes I admired. Navigating the military experience through college and Corporate America, I began ticking the boxes of success as I transitioned from one role to the next. I felt good. I felt like I was doing what I should be doing and what was expected of me.
Starting sometime around when Graham was born I began to look further into the future than I had before; bringing a new life into the world lends itself to introspection. Were these success measures - money, recognition and possessions - still relevant to me? Were they ever relevant to me, or had I embodied the socially driven and accepted views of success as my own?
With both of these questions fresh in my mind - and now fresh in your mind - I began challenging what success is and how to recognize it by establishing measures that are important to me as opposed to what others expect of me.
These are the measures I use today to define success:
Am I able to be the dad and husband I aspire to be? Can I spend fulfilling and meaningful time with my family? Can I be present and not distracted by an outside demand?
Do we have enough to provide for our needs today, while saving for tomorrow?
Am I surrounded by people I enjoy being around? Do they push me to be better and think differently?
Am I putting more good into the world than I take from it?
Today, these measures work well as guideposts to ensure I find joy and meaning in what I do and why I do it. Will they work in 5 years? I’m not sure. But I know I have the freedom to continually evaluate where I am in life without fearing social constraint. I also know that when I am compelled to change one of these measures that I will do so with my (and our) needs in mind and not the expectations of society.
My challenge to each of you from here on out is this: Live life on your own terms. Make your definition of success mean something to you and you alone… not to me, not to your mother and not to anyone else.
Until next time.
Written September 1, 2022