Success. We want it. We want it with every fiber of our being. We want it in every area of life – in relationships, ambitions, finances, and career … and yet, success is illusive. Just as we’re poised to grab hold, it slips through our fingers leaving us hungering for more.
Success is one of those intangible golden nuggets mothers have prayed for, warriors have fought for, and heroes have died for. We know it exists and we spend our whole lives searching for it, yet the quest seems endless; despite our best efforts, we end up empty-handed. Again and again.
So, what is success and why is it so hard to achieve?
We often think of success as the end result of hard work and good planning. But what we often don’t realize is that success happens as we act upon our values and priorities – independent of whether we actually achieve the desired results or not.
In 2011, when 16-year-old Abby Sunderland from southern California attempted to sail around the world solo, non-stop, and unassisted, she acted upon a dream – a goal – and took advantage of the opportunities at hand. Sponsorship funded the project while Dad, brother Zach, and a whole team of experts spent months giving her every advantage money could buy. Despite many setbacks with equipment failure, all were hopeful. She was an amazing young woman with an amazing dream and an amazing team supporting her every move. Success seemed emanate.
A rogue wave in the middle of the Indian Ocean half way into her voyage, however, was an obstacle she, despite her quarter-of-a-million dollar craft, could not overcome. The wave which seemed to come from nowhere tumbled her sailboat called “Wild Eyes” as if it was a toy in a bath tub. The boat quickly up-righted itself, but the mast and boom were gone. Abby herself, thrown around like a rag doll in the hands of a mischievous big brother, was beaten and bruised from head to foot. She and her ship, unable to sail in such a crippled condition, was forced to radio for help. Rescue for Abby came from a French vessel, but Wild Eyes was lost forever.
Failure? Many would say so. But for Abby? The adventure was a success. She was disappointed, sure. But the experience enriched her life in a way nothing else could. In the documentary entitled, “Wild Eyes: The Abby Sunderland Story,” Abby says that even if she would have known ahead of time that she would not have been able to complete her voyage, she would have undertaken it anyway. This young lady understands an eternal truth many of us her senior have yet to grasp: Success is not dependent on the end result.
Success is acting upon opportunities and seeing them through. Even if we fail at the desired result, we can successfully accomplish the task to fruition. We don’t necessarily even need resources to do so – we just need to be resourceful and use what we have.
Abby learned, she grew, and she is now better equipped to try again, which is exactly her plan. She says she WILL sail around the world solo, non-stop, and unassisted at some point in her life. I believe she will.
The same is true of my own life. I often look at my circumstances and feel like a failure because I haven’t yet realized the desired outcome. The truth, however, is that I am already successful because I get up every morning and try again.
Success isn’t just winning, it’s doing. It’s not holding the trophy that counts most but engaging in life’s challenges with courage and determination along the way. Success is not only achieved at the finish line, but also in the journey itself.
A “big” success is actually a culmination of many “small” successes. Sometimes “tiny” is a more accurate description, or sometimes even “minuscule.” The point is, they all count and they eventually add up to something significant. Even if our success can’t be measured according to the standards of others, we recognize it’s significance in our own heart and life. We know what we’ve accomplished and we’re grateful for it.
I am successful right now because I am still in the race.
When Thomas Edison’s first 1000 attempts to invent the light bulb were unsatisfactory, he claimed he successfully discovered 1000 ways not to make a light bulb.
So, dream, set a goal, and go after it. When you fall (and you will), get back up. Learn. Grow. Develop. Readjust. Persevere. That’s the name of the game.
What happens when we do reach our goal and achieve the desired accolades? Well, following the exhilaration of holding our trophy high and basking in the well deserved victory, emptiness will soon set in because at that point, a new goal is needed.
We weren’t meant to end until we take our last breath. Until then, life is just one challenge after another. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. Success is found not only in the ending, but also in the doing along the way. Enjoy it. Treasure it. It’s your life. It’s your story.