In a tiny village lived a wise old prophet. The prophet spent his last years sharing wisdom, answering questions and giving advice to the people in the village. The people respected and loved the prophet because his advice was always helpful and his answers always precise.
One day a young boy from the village decided to trick the prophet by asking a question that would be impossible to answer. The boy found a small live duck, concealed it behind his back and slowly approached the prophet. In a mocking voice the boy asked, “Prophet, I hold a duck behind my back. Tell me; is the duck dead or alive?” The prophet paused for a moment and gazed into the boy’s eyes. In a whisper, he responded, “If I say the duck is dead, you will show me its live body. If I say the duck is alive, you will quickly choke it, and then show me its dead body. Therefore, I tell you the duck is neither alive nor dead. The duck is whatever you decide it will be.”
I heard that story many years ago, and it made a strong impression on me. It reminded me that each of us has the power to decide our fate and destiny. For each of us, our potential for success is similar the duck in this story.
“Your success will be whatever you decide it will be.”
For many people, success is a very personal but subjective type of thing. I understand the personal part; however, the subjective part must be made more objective or concrete so you can recognize your success when you arrive there. Without some objectivity as to what your success will feel, sound, taste, smell, and look like, you won’t know when you’ve succeeded, or if you’ve already unknowingly succeeded. It’s similar to trying to kick a field goal without knowing where the goal post is. Simply put, you cannot be successful unless you first define and understand what success means to you.
The dictionary defines “success” as the achievement of something desired, planned or attempted. Although that definition is accurate, it does not touch upon our visions. What are your measurements for success? What does success mean to you? How will you know whether you are or are not successful if you have not yet defined what success means to you? Do you know what must explicitly happen in your life, job, career, marriage or business for you to feel successful?
Some people use money as a measuring stick for success. If they have an abundance of money, they consider themselves successful; if their finances are in shambles, they consider themselves failures. Others believe that if money is your only motive for success, then you are already a failure. Some people feel very successful if they own a new car or a large house. Others may live in a modest apartment and use public transportation and they, too, feel successful because they are content where they are. Someone else may feel successful if he or she is the president of a large corporation. Others may be happy and fulfilled working in the mail room. In Hollywood, you’re considered successful if your name is in the gossip columns and not in the phone book.
To begin to define your version of success, you can start by asking yourself two important questions:
1. What must precisely happen in my life for me to feel totally successful and completely fulfilled?
2. How will I know when I have achieved it?
Stop now and write out your answers to these two questions. It may take some time and serious thought; however, they are the foundation for the rest of your life.
Answering these questions reveals your personal criteria. Remember, there are no right or wrong answers; your criteria is simply a measurement of what is important to you and an analysis of your values. Compare your criteria with your current life situation, and that assessment designates whether or not you’re a success, or at least if you’re on the right track. In my life, I feel fulfilled and satisfied when the following five areas are in the balance:
1. I must have a happy family life by feeling connected to my wife and children.
2. I must experience physical, emotional and mental health with vibrant energy.
3. I must be engaged in a labor of love.
4. I must feel that I am serving others.
5. My business must be prosperous.
These “success posts” are my criteria for success. I strive to keep them always flourishing and am happy to report that 85% of the time they are at the levels I desire. What could be more satisfying than knowing you are living up to the dream inside you? What could be more important than discovering your talents and developing them? What could be more fulfilling than doing what you love every day?
You were born to win! Success can be learned; it leaves clues, and it has a formula. These clues and methods of success are alive within you.
“However, your definition of success or criteria must precede all of this.”
The moment you choose, define and more importantly “crystallize” your vision, you will discover that it’s much easier to arrive— if you knew where you were going ahead of time. The duck is behind your back; what are you going to do with it; let it live or let it die?