Category Archives: Success

Six. Teen. Years.

So I’m reading Brian Johnson’s Philosopher’s Note on Pete Carroll this morning. I haven’t finished it yet. I was so struck by one of the early ideas in it that I had to jump on here and write down my thoughts.

Even though I’m “sports stupid” (and I almost skipped this note because of it) I do know who John Wooden is, and I’ve always been inspired by his success coaching the UCLA Bruins. Wooden is considered to be the greatest sports coach ever (the arguably more well known Vince Lombardi came in second.)

I knew that Wooden led the Bruins to 10 championships over 12 years. What I didn’t know was the he was coaching the Bruins for sixteen years before they won the first of those championships.

Six. Teen. Years.

One of the things that Wooden is known for is starting his players off by teaching them how to put on their socks.

Intellectually, I understood the principle behind this – drill down to the most basic fundamentals, make incremental progress, and that’s what makes a champion a champion. But I figured it was a couple of years of doing this, and BOOM! Champions. Then Champions. Then Champions. Again and again and again.

But this morning I had an emotional reaction to this idea (thus this brain dump). I could see the six years. No, no I couldn’t. Writing even that seems like too long a time.

I never would have guessed that it took

Six

Teen

Years.

American (maybe I could go so far as Western) culture celebrates the “overnight” success. We look these people like they won the lottery – and even love stories about those who have. We don’t see the

Six. Teen. Years

of hard work that can go into getting the results that we want.

Combine this with our fascination with the outward examples of success – the fame, the money, the power – and we have a recipe for failure.

Whatever your idea of success is, for most of us it takes some (alot of!) time to get there. While there is some luck involved (genetics and environment often play more of a role than self-help gurus want to admit), when we focus on those things that we *do* have control over (like how we “put on our socks”), our chances at reaching our goals increase exponentially.

So… maybe it’s time to remind ourselves that real success isn’t going to come overnight. Figure out a system, stick to it while keeping an eye on what’s working and what isn’t, and give that bamboo plant time to break through the surface.

Again…

Six. Teen. Years.

 

Is That So

Once upon a time there was a Chinese farmer…

Wait – I’ll let Alan Watts tell the story, since he’s much smarter, funnier, and better looking than I am (plus he has a cool British accent):


Once upon a time there was a Chinese farmer who lost a horse. It ran away. And all the neighbors came around that evening and said, “That’s too bad.” And he said, “Maybe.”

The next day the horse came back and brought seven wild horses with it. All the neighbors came around and said, “Why, that’s great isn’t it.” and he said, “Maybe.”

The next day his son was attempting to tame one of these horses and was riding it. He was thrown and broke his leg. All the neighbors came around in the evening and said, “Well that’s too bad, isn’t it.” The farmer said, “Maybe.”

The next day the conscription officers came around looking for people for the army. They rejected his son because he had a broken leg. All the neighbors came around that evening and said, “Isn’t that wonderful!” He said, “Maybe.”

The whole process of nature is an integrated process of immense complexity. It is really impossible to tell whether anything that happens in it is good or bad because you never know what will be the consequences of the misfortune, or you never know what will be the consequences of good fortune.


An excellent example of this happening today – “… the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards says nearly a third of lottery winners declare bankruptcy meaning they were worse off than before they became rich.”1

I’m pretty sure family, friends, neighbors, and complete strangers came around and said “Isn’t that wonderful!” to those lottery winners. Many of them probably also said or thought “Can I have some?”

Then there are those who, without the failures (and just plain old horribleness) in their lives, may not have become as successful as they did – even if it was only because the direction of their life changed. I’m sure their family, friends, neighbors, and complete strangers also said to them “Well that’s too bad, isn’t it.” Many of them probably also said or thought “Call me when things get better.”

My personal favorite “had a ridiculous amount difficulty in life” story is the life of Abraham Lincoln.

(Well shit… maybe he wasn’t such a failure after all. I wonder where believing in – and then not believing in – the Lincoln glurge will take me?)

It’s important to maintain our equanimity in the face of both failures *and* successes, because we never know where they’ll lead us. Not that we should go through life like zombies or robots, numbly accepting the things that happen to us and around us. I’m sure the Chinese farmer, when his son first broke his leg, didn’t just say “Oh well, c’est la vie.” (and not just because he probably didn’t know French.)

And he was probably thrilled when the draft board said “Hard pass.”

Acknowledge the emotions that come up. Celebrate and cry. Maybe even spend a few days in bed or partying. But try to remember:

“The whole process of nature is an integrated process of immense complexity. It is really impossible to tell whether anything that happens in it is good or bad because you never know what will be the consequences of the misfortune, or you never know what will be the consequences of good fortune.”

 

Three Keys to Success

“Success is really nothing more than the progressive realization of a worthy ideal. This means that any person who knows what they are doing and where they are going is a success. Any person with a goal towards which they are working is a successful person.” — Earl Nightingale, quoted in the Philosopher’s Note on “The Strangest Secret”.

“Any person with a goal towards which they are working is a successful person.”

“… with a goal towards which they are working…”

“… working… ”

Not “any person who has achieved a goal that they have worked for.”

“Any person with a goal towards which they are working…”

I honestly don’t like the first sentence of the above quote – “Success is really nothing more than the progressive realization of a worthy ideal.” As a matter of fact, this post was originally going to be a full on criticism of it.

Here’s that criticism in a nutshell – I (as well as many others who I’ve learned this from) are redefining success. Success has very little to do with a destination (realization). It’s all about the action we take toward that destination. As a matter of fact, we never have to reach the destination, as long as we are taking action – long, short, clean, messy, whatever kind of action – toward that destination.

When I went on a search for the exact quote (written out at the top of this post), I came across the full idea in Brian Johnson’s Philosopher’s Note on the essay/broadcast that the quote is from.

I realized that not only was I was reading the quote out of context, I was completely ignoring the “progressive” part of it. The full quote really explains what is meant by that.

Nightingale was right, according to the definition that I’ve created and decided to use:

“Success is constructive, consistent action toward a worthy ideal/goal.”

The first key is “a worthy ideal.” Only you can define what is worthy. Is it a strong meditation practice? A million dollars? The next game changing app? Starting a charity dedicated to a cause you care about? All of the above?

Key number two is constructive action. Watching TV is an action, but it (usually) isn’t constructive and (usually) won’t get you anywhere near your worthy ideal – unless your goal is to watch a shitload of TV. If that’s the case… get a new goal! (I know, I know, only you can define what’s worthy – but come on!)

Key number three: consistent action. You don’t get healthy by eating one salad or working out one time. You don’t write a novel by writing 3 pages and then never going back to it. You’ve gotta be consistent. The consistent action can be small (as a  matter of fact, it should be in the beginning – see The Slight Edge and Mini Habits for more info), but action has to be taken on a consistent basis for it to be a success.

So… What’s your ideal? What constructive action will you take today toward achieving that ideal? How will you ensure that the action is consistent?

Let us know in the comments section below.