This week (April 1), I crossed the half-century mark of life. It doesn’t seem possible because some memories from long ago – growing up, high school, college, dating Jane – are so vivid. And that includes being at my dad’s 50th birthday party! As I pause and reflect, I’m thankful and hopeful. I’m thankful for the life I’ve led and that I’ve made it this far. Many wonderful people don’t get this many years on earth. I’m hopeful for many more years and to be able to enjoy them in good health.
As this day has been approaching, I’ve looked back on my life and would like to share a few things I believe may help you be more successful in your life. I realize success can be defined many different ways so I’ll tell you mine. It’s based on the mission statement I wrote more than 25 years ago.
When my days on earth are finished and I stand in front of the Lord I hope He will say, “Well done.” Success for me will be defined by placing Him first, loving my family, making my work place better in a productive and personal sense and staying true to who I am. The following are things I believe have helped me live a life in which I can look back and say I’m happy, content and would not trade my life with anyone, for anything.
- Love God. I’ve had experiences in life that let me know in my deepest soul that there is a God. My love for Him and living as He would desire is far from perfect. But, I’ve come to realize He doesn’t love me any more when I succeed or any less because I make mistakes. That made more sense to me after Abigail came along. I would not love her more because she did certain things nor would I love her less if she did things I disagreed with. I love her, period. So it is with God and that frees me to be who I am, accept myself – the good, the bad and all that’s in between – and enjoy who I am.
- Place others ahead of yourself. When it comes to family, the more you can put them ahead of yourself the happier you will be. I don’t believe we do this in some sort of self-denial, “woe is me” way. You do this because when you truly love someone, you want the best for them. It brings me joy to be able to give to Jane and Abigail. When you see the giving as your reward, you realize your capacity to love is unlimited! We’re to love all people and that’s tougher because it doesn’t come as naturally but I do find more joy when I truly care for and give to others.
- Choose your thoughts. When it comes to family and others, what we choose to focus on makes a tremendous difference. There is good and bad in everyone and everything. The good new is, humans can choose where to place their thoughts. Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning, written about his experiences in surviving the Holocaust, drove this home for me. Recognizing this means I can choose not to focus on the bad and fix my thoughts on the good instead. The more I do this, the easier it is to like other people. When they sense I genuinely like them they begin to respond in kind and everyone is better off.
- Love what you do. I know it sounds clichéd, but it’s true. When you love what you do your reward comes daily. When I think back to my bodybuilding, marathon running and taekwondo days, one thing in common with each was that I loved training. The goals of a bodybuilding contest, running a marathon or a black belt test were just reasons to train harder. But I realize it was easy because I wasn’t training for the prize, I was training because I loved what I was doing and those goals helped me get even more out of something that already brought me so much satisfaction.
- A little bit over a long period. Steven Covey talked about the law of the land; that you can’t plant a crop and expect it to grow in a day. That natural process cannot be circumvented. So it is with most things in life in which we want to succeed. I learned early on with weightlifting that diligent effort over a long time paid dividends. I saw that with my studies in college and I see it today with my approach to Influence PEOPLE. Success rarely happens overnight. Muhammad Ali said as much; “The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses – behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.” If you love what you do it makes the process more bearable.
- Work hard. Nothing comes easy and loving what you do and doing it for a long time won’t cut it if you don’t give it your all. There’s simply no substitute for hard work. Going to the gym, dojo, hitting the road, or studying, all require real effort. I never aspired to be “the best” because I knew what my time and physical limitations were. Within the parameters I set, I aspired to be “the best I could be” and most of the time I felt accomplished that.
- Cut yourself some slack. There will come a day when our time is up. Don’t use up precious time and energy living in regret or beating yourself up for not being more than you are. You’re not perfect and never will be. If you happen to attain the highest heights and are considered “the best” at what you do it’s likely to be short lived. Just look at sports champions. The more you can accept yourself – short comings and all – the more you’ll be able to accept others and that leads to healthy relationships.
These are just a few thoughts on what I believe has helped me get where I am today. I’m happy and content. I realize many people cannot say either, let alone both. I hope what I’ve shared gives you pause for thought and perhaps helps you move closer to happiness and contentment.
Chief Influence Officer
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.
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