How Do You Define Success?

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How do you define success? Is it defined by one’s individual sense of mission, passion and pursuit of using the gifts they have been given or is it defined by whether or not others see value and promise in our pursuit?

Isn’t it true that beauty really is in the eye of the beholder? Most often our experience of life has some relationship to how we view ourselves. It is also impacted by our perception of how we are perceived by others. Too often, we allow our self-awareness to be overly influenced by the negativity or denigrating assessment by others. Historically, I have conducted many child-welfare related workshops and seminars at conferences. When permitted, I always look carefully at the evaluations.

I don’t know why I do that. Truthfully, I can tell during the workshop if I’m connecting with others. You can tell whether people or paying attention and seemed locked into the topic. Their body language is a clear indication. If I have a sense that it went well based on what I’ve observed, why can’t I leave well enough alone? I can look at thirty evaluations where twenty-nine people have nothing but praise to share. Yet, a negative assessment by one person has the potential to knock the breath out of me.

Fortunately, when I mistakenly yield to the negative and denigrating dismissal of others, the General always has ability to provide the gift of encouragement and the ability to help me understand that one person’s negative opinion has no relationship to anything other than their mindset. It does not have a relationship to my value and ability. Without her encouragement to do otherwise, I’d probably have short-circuited many pursuits that have contributed meaning and fulfillment in my life.

What about you? Are you overly influenced by the rejection and dismissal of others? If so, let me share some real life examples where negative assessments by folks in places of authority didn’t capture the potential or promise of the person being dismissed.

Even though he died at the age of 42, there are many who continue to refer to him as the “King of Rock and Roll”. Did anyone ever question his talent or ability? In 1954, before Elvis became a household name, Jimmy Denny, manager of the grand Ole Opry, fired him after one performance. Denny was brutal in his dismissal, “You ain’t goin’ nowhere son. You ought to go back to drivin’ a truck”.

Today, Walt Disney is credited for contributions related to movies, theme parks and merchandise. His road to success wasn’t without failure and rejection. A newspaper editor fired him because, “he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.”

Robert Sternberg is currently Professor of Human Development at Cornell University. “This big name in psychology received a ‘C’ in his first college introductory psychology class with his teacher telling him that, ‘there was already a famous Sternberg in psychology and it was obvious there would not be another.’ Ouch! Sternberg showed him, however, graduating from Stanford with exceptional distinction in psychology, summa cum laude, and Phi Beta Kappa and eventually becoming the President of the American Psychological Association”.

“Most people know Oprah as one of the most iconic faces on TV as well as one of the richest and most successful women in the world. Oprah faced a hard road to get to that position, however, enduring a rough and often abusive childhood as well as numerous career setbacks including being fired from her job as a television reporter because she was ‘unfit for TV’.”

Michael Jordon, one of the best basketball players of all time was cut from his high school basketball team. Of his basketball career, he states: “I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

I have a really good friend who has read both of my books more than once. She’s done that while acknowledging that she doesn’t enjoy reading. For whatever reason, she honored me by investing the time. She thought the books had value and suggested that they be available through the bookstore at her church. The one unknown caveat associated to the process was the pastor’s need to read and approve every book that is offered through their bookstore.

Months later, and somewhat disappointingly, she received notification that neither book was deemed worthy of being available through their bookstore. Maybe I’m getting healthier. This time I didn’t personalize the rejection. I focused only on one aspect of the process. I am so honored and grateful that a friend took the initiative, invested the time and resources to make the books available through her church. Her assessment of their worth and value is more than enough. I am blessed.

All My Best!

Don

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