Posts Tagged success
Back when I was a kid in the 70s, parents who wanted to share their child’s success clipped something from the local paper and stuck it on the fridge or they took a picture and put it in a scrapbook. The well-prepared mother might keep pictures and mementos in her purse and produce them when she cornered a seemingly interested party. Social media changed all of that.
Now, we have digital images and videos, and access to media that we can quickly share on Facebook or Twitter, and I think it’s great. Success is my favorite thing to find on social media. It’s especially fulfilling to see young people experience and build on success.
Success is uplifting and should be celebrated, but can sharing success on social media go too far? I found myself contemplating that recently when a stranger accused me of just such an extreme.
He wrote in response to my latest blog post about overcoming self-doubt. The setting for that post was my son’s challenging wrestling season and sudden success in the state tournament, during which my son beat his son. In less than polite words, he asked that I remain humble and suggested that I should share about failures too, which were a big part of the post. Failure, it seemed, was his way humbling me.
Initially, I was angry, but I believe that God puts certain people in our lives to challenge us and our thinking, so I thought about his concern. To do that, I put myself in his shoes. How would I feel about him sharing his son’s success, which included two victories over my son? Unless he was critical or demeaning toward my son, it wouldn’t bother me in the slightest. I would be happy that his son was successful.
The world needs more successful people and more celebrations of success, because success motivates success. Success is almost always the product of hard work and sacrifice, and seeing success should create hope and motivate work and sacrifice, not inspire resentment and jealousy.
Unfortunately, resentment and jealousy too often suppress success sharing, because we allow it to silence us. I recently had a conversation with a mother who was hesitant to share an honor her daughter received, because she didn’t want to be perceived as boastful. It’s a concern that most of us have, but why should we hide success, especially on social media, which is too often dominated by the negative?
Social media gives us a unique platform to share success – unique, because it’s passive. Unlike active methods, like calling or e-mailing, sharing success online gives your audience an option to opt out. Kind of like putting that fridge covered in clippings in the middle of town square, people can choose to look at it or walk past it.
Whether active or passive, sharing success is only bragging when your intent is to make others feel inferior. You can avoid that with a couple of easy techniques:
- Don’t use subjective language, like “My daughter is the smartest kid in her class,” or “it was the best performance of the night.” When you interject your opinion, no matter how valid you think that opinion might be, you can be perceived as boastful. It’s much more fulfilling to leave room for others to form their own opinions, and they will appreciate that opportunity.
- Acknowledge your blessings. Most success doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Give credit to everyone involved, especially the supporters and believers, e.g. “He’s fortunate to be on a great team with great coaches and great parents.”
Genuine humility and appreciation are easy to recognize and hard to criticize, but as seen with my negative poster, they don’t always overcome the very powerful emotion of jealousy. Fortunately, I believe that only a very small segment of the population is affected this way, and I’m certain that it’s not significant enough that it should influence us to hide success.
Parents, post away!
Earlier this month, I had the peculiar experience of seeing my son live out a dream that went unfulfilled for me when I was his age. Patrick was announced as a starter in his first varsity football game, in front of a large, enthusiastic crowd that held many of his friends and family.
I was ecstatic for him, but it’s easier for me to identify with the guys on the sidelines. Like them, my dream was to hear my name called over the speakers by the announcer and to run out on that football field, before those fans and under those lights. I vividly remember playing that scene in my mind, as I rode hills on my bicycle in the predawn stillness before my morning weight-lifting sessions.
Though it provided plenty of motivation, the dream for me was never realized. Instead of my years of intense training being rewarded in grand fashion, in front of friends and family, my dream of being a high school football star died quietly in an Omaha orthopedist’s office with my parents as the only witnesses.
This juxtaposition of heart-warming success and heart-wrenching failure plays out not only on athletic fields, but in offices, classrooms and elsewhere every day. Some succeed, while others fail. Dreams are fulfilled, and dreams are crushed. Some of these dreams are abandoned, while others are reconstructed.
On the football field, the drama is amplified, literally under a bright light. You practice and train beside your teammates, always trying to find your place in the hierarchy. You compete together, but also against each other for those precious few spots. Some are going to win, and because there are winners, there also have to be losers.
It’s the same way in life. We don’t get the job for which we feel we are perfect or we’re passed over for a promotion. A love interest leaves us in puzzled rejection. The invite gets lost in the mail.
Failure and disappointment are part of life, and fear of them can be crippling, unless you can put them in context. If we learn from it, failure is an event that will pass, rather than a condition that will last.
Albert Einstein said, “Failure is success in progress.” Failure gives you a chance to evaluate yourself and your approach, and adjust or even change direction. The experience makes you more likely to succeed somewhere further down the line.
In his last year of youth baseball, Patrick played at a high level, but rode the bench a lot. It was frustrating and disappointing for him. Like his football teammates, he did everything the coach asked, but someone at his position was better than he. Ultimately, at the end of the season, he and half his teammates were cut from the team. That experience hurt, but it also helped him understand losing in a competitive situation, and ironically, it pushed him toward success in football.
Though he enjoyed baseball, most of that enjoyment came from playing with his friends on that team. Without that option, he decided to hang up the cleats. Because high-level baseball required so much dedication throughout the spring and summer, he had already disciplined himself to sacrifice, and he simply shifted the focus to football training. I’m convinced that shift in focus enabled him to earn that starting spot on the football team, and had he not been cut from the baseball team, he would not be a starter on the varsity football team.
Despite my best efforts, I never experienced athletic success, but I attribute a lot of the success that I have experienced since to my pursuit of that dream. My dream drove me, disciplined me and taught me more about myself and my place in life than anything else in my childhood.
That’s the value of dreams. They give you a reason to believe and achieve. They encourage you to push yourself harder and further than you think you can go. They incite passion. They nurture dedication.
Don’t be afraid to dream, and don’t be afraid to fail. You never know what you might achieve.
Hillary Clinton recently went to great lengths to save herself from the embarrassment of being financially successful. Her problems started when, in an effort to appeal to the masses, she said that she was “dead broke” when she left the security of the White House. Apparently, poverty polls well.
At one time, I was on pretty shaky financial ground myself, owing much more than I had in assets and earning very little from my fledging business. It’s a story common to many entrepreneurs. You sacrifice and risk comfort, because you believe in your enterprise, but I don’t think that I was ever “dead broke.” I saw true poverty in Africa – people crammed into tiny tin shacks and scavenging along the roadside. That’s “dead broke,” and it’s a far cry from being a former First Lady who can command hundreds of thousands from a speech.
Senator Clinton’s missteps really don’t bother me, but her shying away from success does. Success should be celebrated, especially in a country that was the setting for Senator Clinton’s rise from the Chicago middle class to United States Secretary of State or President Clinton’s rise from a broken home to United States President.
Imagine if Senator Clinton had pointed out that success can be fleeting, but can be recaptured with concentrated effort, instead of trying to sell the idea that two very successful people were destitute. She could have inspired others whose financial success had ebbed. She could have given us hope.
Dr. Shane Lopez of the Gallup Organization wrote a thoroughly researched and critical book, Making Hope Happen, based on his research on hope. Lopez defines hope as the energy and ideas that drive people to change their circumstances, and he champions hope as an extremely powerful tool that everyone can use in response to life’s challenges, such as losing a job or receiving a dire health prognosis.
When we have hope, we see the challenges before us as temporary and beatable. Hope inspires us to push on when life gets difficult. Hope provides a powerful psychological benefit that lifts our spirits, increases our self-esteem and provides us energy. Without it, we’re almost destined to struggle.
One of my greatest sources of hope is the success of others. Seeing others succeed affirms my faith that exceptional things can be accomplished with exceptional effort by exceptional people. It’s a belief that my parents instilled in me at a young age.
My fourth grade year was filled with challenges. It was the year that my parents decided that my physical condition wasn’t something that I would grow out of, like we hoped. That meant frequent three-hour trips from Loup City to Omaha, to see the state’s top neurologists and orthopedists at the Nebraska Medical Center. These trips were never fun, because they invariably entailed painful tests, like muscle biopsies and nerve conduction tests, and a lot of anxiety about my future. To that point, I was a kid with a slight limp. Now, there was talk of brain tumors and muscular dystrophy. Through it all, my parents never allowed me to lose hope.
In spite of the uncertainty and anxiety, they helped me imagine a bright future for myself. They encouraged me to initiate conversations with my doctors and to imagine myself as a physician. When we saw the big houses on the bluffs of the Elkhorn River on the drive in, they told me that I could have a similar home, if I worked hard. They never allowed me to feel sorry for myself or unworthy of success. They never told me that life would be easy or that I should expect anything that I didn’t work for, but they gave me hope for a promising future.
Over the years, I’ve been blessed to have close friendships with many high achievers who earned their success through hard work, dedication and sacrifice. I admire their accomplishments and approach toward their work, and they inspire me to higher standards.
I wish that we saw more messages like that from our leaders and that success would return to high esteem. Imagine what could happen if we valued hope over pity and jealousy.
A recent CNN/Money poll revealed that more than 60% of Americans don’t believe that “The American Dream” is attainable. Although the poll was conducted without a concrete definition of the American Dream, its results are concerning, because it reveals that pessimism is overtaking optimism.
Most consider the prospect of the American Dream as a source of optimism, and for the most part, most generations have been able to improve their economic condition over the course of their lifetimes. Perhaps this improvement deluded us into thinking that the American Dream was to be expected with little sacrifice, almost entitled.
When we feel entitled, we misunderstand challenges. Instead of seeing challenges as learning opportunities, we see them as annoyances. We respond to opportunities, and we whine about annoyances. Opportunities advance us, while annoyances bog us down. Over time, annoyances become pessimism.
Zig Ziglar wrote and spoke about what he called, the Immigrant Attitude. The Immigrant Attitude is a belief that hard work, perseverance, sacrifice and thrift will pay dividends.
The Immigrant Attitude is more than a theory. First-generation legal immigrants are typically more successful than their native-born counterparts. They are three to four times more likely to become millionaires, and though they are only 11% of the United States population, they comprise more than 40 percent of the Ivy League student population.
Why? Because they’re optimistic about the opportunities available to them in the United States. They are optimistic, because they recognize the true high value of opportunity. Their appreciation of opportunity often comes from their experience with adversity. Persevering through adversity is a lifestyle for them.
I had my own optimism and appreciation tested a couple of years ago, while on safari in Africa. After a successful morning of hunting, I was enjoying a cool beverage in the shade. A young Zimbabwean named Pretty was waiting on me.
Pretty opened the conversation by asking me about my trip to camp just two days earlier. It’s really hard to find the positives of a 17.5 hour flight and five-hour bus ride, so I said something to the effect that I was glad it was over, and I wasn’t looking forward to the trip back.
“It’s my dream to fly to the United States,” she said. “There is just so much I could do if I was able to get there.” Pretty then told me how she had fled Zimbabwe for South Africa, leaving twin boys behind, during her native country’s political turmoil.
I began to feel really small. I was in Africa, on vacation from work and enjoying being pampered by my hosts. She was in Africa worried sick that she wouldn’t have enough money to support herself, let alone see her children again. I was leaving in five days to return to my comfortable life and its trivial worries in the world’s most prosperous country. She wasn’t sure what would happen to her in a few weeks, when the hunting season ended.
I think of Pretty when my day in the office doesn’t go so well or I find myself fretting over something petty, like a hail-damaged car. I picture Pretty with a huge smile, taking it all in and making the most of it.
If an immigrant were in your shoes, behind your desk, with the same 24 hours in his day, would he be more successful? If the answer is yes, consider adopting the Immigrant Attitude.
“Real optimism is aware of problems but recognizes the solutions, knows about difficulties, but believes they can be overcome, sees the negatives but accentuates the positives, is exposed to the worst but exceeds the best, has reason to complain but chooses to smile.” ― William Author Ward
As a fan of the Nebraska Husker football team, certain things are expected of me. I’m supposed to be reverent and respectful when discussing Dr. Tom Osborne. I’m supposed to cringe when I hear Oklahoma’s Boomer Sooner music. I’m supposed to have a closet full of red logo wear for game days, and I’m supposed to hate Texas and Notre Dame. I’m good until I get to the hating part.
In fact, I like Texas and Notre Dame. Yeah, I said it and wrote it. Texas and Notre Dame have rich histories, and they both consistently field successful football teams. Even more important, both teams – like every other team in the country – have good kids on their teams – kids who are working hard to get an education so they can succeed. And, I’m supposed to hate them and cheer against them?
When I was younger, I thought that being faithful to my team meant that I had to dislike other teams, so I did. I cherished those rare moments when Oklahoma, Missouri or Colorado lost. Of course, when they lost and my team won, my team rose to the top, but it was more than that; I didn’t want anyone to be as good as my team. I resented their success.
This sort of thinking is evident in sports, but it’s as prevalent, though often more subtle, in other parts of life. We see our friends move into a larger, nicer home than we have, and we’re jealous and suspicious about how they made that happen. We read about a business competitor’s success in the newspaper, and we secretly hope that they’ll receive their comeuppance. Another athlete on our child’s team shows signs of greatness, and we suspect that his coach unfairly favors that kid. We resent success.
Why do we resent success for others? I believe we do so because humans are prone to inferiority, and we often suffer from a lack of appreciation. We are not at peace with ourselves and our accomplishments, and we don’t fully appreciate the lives that we lead. It’s not easy, but recognizing and acknowledging these weaknesses allows us to mitigate the damage they can inflict on our happiness.
Inferiority is particularly crippling, because it’s based on our feelings about ourselves. Until we change the way that we think about ourselves, it will be difficult to admire the success of others, let alone achieve success for ourselves. Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Inferiority begins and ends at the individual level.
Our levels of appreciation and inferiority work conversely. As appreciation for our blessings rises, our inferiority diminishes. When appreciation is high, inferiority is low, and we feel free to celebrate the success of others.
During the recent national championship game, I wore a Husker windbreaker as I cheered for Notre Dame. Those who watched the game know that the Irish were dominated from the beginning by the much more talented Alabama team. I felt sorry for the Notre Dame football players, particularly Manti Te’o, Notre Dame’s All-American linebacker who is by all accounts a great person away from the field as well as on it. At the same time, I was happy for the Alabama players who had worked so hard to beat an undefeated team so convincingly. Since I didn’t follow Alabama throughout the year, like I had Notre Dame, I wasn’t as familiar with their players, except for Barrett Jones, who, like Te’o, was as impressive off the field as he was on it. It was hard not to admire his skills and dedication.
In the middle, often away from the camera’s focus, was an epic battle between Jones and Notre Dame nose guard Louis Nix. Nix is a talented player in his own right. Many think he would have been a high pick in this year’s NFL draft, but he chose to come back to graduate in his senior season, honoring a commitment he made to his mother.
Instead of cheering against one squad or the other, like much of America was doing, I simply enjoyed watching two talented teams, whose players have exciting futures ahead of them, give everything they had in order to win the game.
Though I am not always successful, I try to apply the same approach to life. Instead of looking suspiciously at the success of others, I try to find something that I can admire and perhaps apply to my own life. I find myself more at peace, more optimistic and more successful this way.
— Mitch Arnold