Success is Not a Choice

Success is not a choice, it is an obligation. Now, before you start accusing me of blindsided by all things successful, let me explain.

Yes, the world seems to equate success with luxury cars, big houses, corner office, and money in the bank. The idea of success is always associated with money and economic achievements. We also think that success means being a mega achiever – the Roger Federer, Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk of this world.

But success is not and should not be confined to just one measure or definition. There are many ways to define success and it comes in many shapes and forms depending on where a person is in life. Success has a different meaning for different people.

In general, success can be defined as the measure of attaining a desired end.

Success for a kid might mean receiving an allowance for the first time. But that would be insignificant in a few years, when success in the teen years would mean owning a hand phone. As the teen continues to grow into an adult, success would come in forms of graduating from a prestigious university, finding a great job, buying the first house, getting that promotion, finding the right partner, and so on.

As we begin to age, we are likely to find success in financial stability, time freedom, good health, grandchildren, life fulfillment and our legacies.

If you look at success this way, you will begin to understand why I stated that success is not a choice. It is important and it is an obligation to be successful in life.

Why the talk about success?

I live in a reasonably sized landed house in a good neighbourhood. I am fortunate to be a part of a thriving business and the company provides me a car with all maintenance and petrol covered. I am healthy and in reasonable fitness and shape. I do not lack anything material wise and I am blessed.

Does that mean that I can start taking the foot off the pedal? It is easy to get complacent once you have ‘sort off’ achieved a certain level in life.

But why do I, sometimes, feel like something is amiss? How is success supposed to feel like? Should there be more to life? Truth is, every now and again, I feel like a failure.

Fatherhood has not been as textbook-simple as I thought it to be. Bringing up two boys requires much more patience that i have in my tank. Marriage is still a work in progress. It can be hard whenever I forget to communicate, compromise and understand. Leading people and running a company can be really challenging. Stay still and you will find that market changes and competitive forces leaving behind very quickly.    

I recently came across the idea that success is like a breath of air. Although your first breath was important, it is not nearly as important as the next one. So no matter how much you have already achieved, you need to have the desire to continue making new accomplishments. If you stop trying to succeed, it is like you trying to live your life off the last breath of air that you took.

Apparently people who are successful will continue to work and produce even after they have flourished. Why do they keep pushing? Successful people knows that they must continue in order to realize new achievements.   

All of us have experienced success in our own ways. You and I know that success provides a sense of accomplishments, self-confidence and even a sense of security. These are very important to the well-being and growth as an individual. That is why I am thinking that success should be pursued continually in order for us for a sense of fulfilment. It is about reaching the level 4 and 5 or the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

I know it can get a bit squeamish to talk about big goals, success and all. But I also know that knowing, understanding and working towards what you want to achieve is life is very important. It will get us out of mundane ruts and give meaning to life.

Here are some of my recent thoughts and musing on this subject.

Success is a Personal Business

Other may have an opinion about your success, but it is you who truly decides what success is to you. Everyone wants to be successful, but when do you know you are successful?

To answer the question, you need to know what makes you happy, what is important for you, when you feel the most achieved, or what you have done that you are most proud of.

Give it a try and ask yourself these questions. You may not find it as straightforward as you thought it to be. Sometimes, and it is normal, that we don’t even know what is important and what we want out of this life. All we do is react to what is urgent and tackle daily tasks and challenges as they show up. 

But as lame as it may sound, setting goals is an important practice for creating a meaningful, satisfying, successful life.

Personally these are some goals that I am working towards so that I can have a successful (read meaningful and satisfying) life:

  • Nurture the boys in academic and character so that they excel in life
  • Grow the business to double up in revenue within 5 years
  • Complete 100km trail ultra-races strongly this year
  • Write and publish a book within the next 3 years

Success is found in detailing exactly what you want to achieve, and these achievements should be the things that makes you come alive.

In setting goals, most of us have been educated and convinced to set realistic goals. But always ask yourself whether the goals you have set are equal to your potential. Don’t just set realistic goals, because you can already get a realistic life without setting goals for it.

Realistic goals are based on what others think is possible. Remember, your goals are supposed to be personal. Others are not you, and they have no way of knowing your potential and purposes.

Don’t underestimate your potential. You are capable of far more than you can even imagine.

Success has to be Intentional

Success will never happen automatically. It is about understanding what you want to achieve and then a relentless effort and actions taken over time to achieve it. Success comes only to those that work towards it.

And let me just say that success is a lot of hard work, consistently. Raising boys to achieve their highest potential requires a lot of blood, sweat and tears literally. Seriously, you need tonnes of patience, time and not forgetting financial investment into their studies and well-being if you want to put them ahead of their peers. 

Building a successful business is a painstaking endeavour. It is manageable to just survive, but it is a different story if you are looking to thrive and grow year on year. The business environment is ever changing, customers are getting more demanding, competition is increasing and I am not complaining about the challenges in managing people yet. You need to be intentional and be at your best daily to lead, manage and thrive. 

I don’t have to tell you the effort and training that is required to run a 100km trail race strongly. I have already written about it in many articles throughout this blog. Suffice to say that very single training session has to be intentional. Which also explains why I have been struggling and falling behind in my preparations.

Of course sometimes we can be fortunate and get away with certain things or achieve something with minimum or no effort. Luck may have something to do with it, but anyone who has ‘been lucky’ will tell you that luck has a direct correlation with the effort they have put in.

The more actions you take, the luckier you would be. 

Success comes in Bite Sizes

You have probably heard that the only way to eat an elephant (figuratively speaking of course) is a bite at a time. What this mean is that everything in life that seems daunting, overwhelming and even impossible (such as your big goals) can be accomplished gradually, but eventually, by taking on just a little at a time.

Sometimes getting started can be a little bit of a challenge. Writing a book, a reasonably good one, is a gigantic undertaking. Looking at all that is to be done ahead can get you intimidated and make you freeze up incapable of taking the first step.

This is a common miscalculation and it is the reason many people fall short of turning their dream into reality and achieving the success that they desire. They try to eat the whole elephant in a single bite.

Eating the elephant one bite at a time means breaking down your big goals into manageable chunks and pieces that can be work on and achieved progressively.

That the example of me aspiring to write a book. About fifteen years ago I had the dream of authoring a book and getting in published. Honestly, language is not one of my strong suits. No one has ever said that I am good in writing and I do not spend time writing for leisure as well. 

I just have the aspiration to author a book and have it printed into a physical copy. It is alright if I cannot get a publisher to publish it. I do not mind paying for printing and publish it on my own. But the book and its content should be publisher worthy.

Guess what happened after ten years or so? Nothing much. I listened to people telling me that I do not have enough experience to share in a book. I did not take necessary actions nor put in effort to write consistently. I allowed the sheer volume of work required in writing a book to overwhelm me into inaction.  

Then a few years ago, I started to break down this big elephant into manageable chunks. I identified my interest areas, picked up blogging and started working on short writings. Each article is only 1500 to 2000 words and they only require a few hours to work on.

The most important thing is that each time I am able to complete an article that meets my own standards in terms of content and length, I feel satisfied and proud of my achievement. I consider it a stepping stone success towards the big goal, never mind that the success is just a bite size.

I figured if a decent book is 90,000 words in volume, then I can work towards 50 articles in the right direction before I start to string them together into a book offering. Well, it may not be as simple as that, but you get the idea.    

Success brings out the Best in You

I have lived to a certain age to understand that life is fleeting and time flies. If you don’t set goals to achieve or successes to attain, you will find that life passes by very quickly without you realising it.  

That is why many practitioners recommend that we set or read our goals on a daily basis. It is not good just to set goals and resolutions in the beginning of the year and then keep them hidden in the drawers. You will just be swept by the unimportant but urgent stuff day in day out. Before long, the year would come to an end and it would be time to set the same goals again. 

It is easy for you to get carried away attending to anything and everything that screams your attention daily regardless whether they are important or aligned to what you want to achieve. I can get so carried away managing the business that I start to get home late from work. Work is important and it justifies to get as much work done as possible. They are always fires to fight and deals to chase.

But when I go through what is really important to me and the goals that I want to achieve, I am reminded to strive for a balance to how I allocate my time. I make it a point to leave the office on time so that I can spend some time with my boys before dinner, to either go through schoolwork with them or take them out to play at the park. This is in line with my goal of nurturing them academic and character wise so that they can grow up well.

Time is such a limited resource that I have to really stay focus on only spending time working on activities that will help me achieve my goals. That means I hardly spend time in front of the television and I limit social outings. I also make it a point to go to bed early, close to my boys’ bed time, so that I do not binge on snacks or social media. That way I am able to wake up early enough for a morning run and still be back in time to send them to school.

Working towards my personal goals, the successes I have set for myself, has helped to bring out the best in me. Because of these goals, I am frequently reminded to focus on what is important and to use my time wisely. 

Working on my legacy – they are a continuation of my love, my values and my way of life

I cannot and should not tell what success is for you. There is nothing presumptuous or arrogant about desiring to learn, grow and achieve the best that you can be. And there is nothing wrong when we aspire to make a difference with our lives and fulfill all the potential that has been entrusted to us.  

Again, it is important to take into account that we have been brought up to be realistic in our expectations. But you will already get a realistic life automatically without doing anything much. So aim higher and strive for greatness instead. 

Always remember the following when you are working towards your successful life:

  • you are setting goals for you, not for anyone else
  • therefore anything is possible
  • you have much more potential than you realised
  • it will require work regardless of the size of your goals
  • success is your obligation and responsibility
  • and there is never a shortage of success

Be aware of these so that you won’t underestimate the possibilities that is waiting for you and your great life ahead.  

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