“I beg you: don’t buy society’s definition of success. Because it’s not working for anyone. It’s not working for women, it’s not working for men, it’s not working for polar bears . . . It’s only truly working for those who make pharmaceuticals for stress, diabetes, heart disease, sleeplessness and high blood pressure.”
–Arianna Huffington’s 2013 Commencement speech at Smith College
Knowing, as many of you do, that I thoroughly love inspiring college commencement addresses, a reader thoughtfully shared with me a link to Arianna Huffington’s recent address at Smith College (thank you Marie!). The focus of the speech was the idea of redefining success.
As she progresses through her speech she offers up the notion that the idea of redefining success isn’t lowering the bar but actually improving the conditions so that upon attaining one’s hard sought goal, it can be more fulfilling and less detrimental for everyone.
Expanding on the ingredients of money and power with regards to success, she adds the following – “well-being, wisdom, our ability to wonder, and to give back.” Keeping all of these in mind, I came up with a list of behaviors that the majority of successful people do. Have a look.
1. Learn the Rules Before You Break Them
Whether you are just starting out in a career that has been around for decades or navigating your way through a new and quickly changing career such as blogging, while you’re making a living, do your homework. Understand what others have done before, why they did them and then go about tweaking, changing or completely rethinking how something is done. Remember, knowledge is power. After all, if you’re going to convince those who have been in the business longer than you, you must demonstrate logical reasoning for the changes you are about to make in order to convince them to come along.
2. Love Yourself First
“Love takes many forms, but [it] must always start with oneself.” –Elizabeth Berg
No matter what decision you are about to make, before you make it, make sure you are doing it with the goal of living your best life. Don’t choose to pursue a profession, get married, get divorced, have kids, invest in a business, buy a house, or do anything to gain favor, gain approval, not be laughed at or be accepted. Understand that you must love who you are, your dreams, your hopes, your ideas and even those mistakes that have helped you transform into the person you are today. And while you will never be perfect, continue to strive to be the best version of yourself as defined through your eyes and not someone else’s. Think Barbra Streisand or Tina Fey.
3. Don’t Just Take Any Advice
Advice from someone who has been successful at what you are striving after is the person you should be asking advice from. While everyone most likely has an opinion or an idea of what you should do, if they don’t have the knowledge or expertise or are living in a way you don’t respect or agree with, respectfully listen and seek out an opportunity to speak with someone else who is more in line with your goals.
4. Home in on Your Passion
Becoming an expert in any field takes time, and one of the necessary ingredients needed to keep focused, to continue to persevere and continue to practice repeatedly is to love what you are doing. Once you discover what makes you lose all track of time, once you discover what you can get lost in, and once discover what perhaps comes more naturally to you that may be more difficult for others, ask yourself, how can I turn this into a career?
5. Add Value
To help answer the question posed in #4, figure out a way that your passion can add value to the community or world. Perhaps you’re providing knowledge about something that you are an expert in. Perhaps you are helping others live up their fullest potential. Perhaps you offer care, attention and peace of mind. Perhaps you provide a safer environment in which others can live without worry. Whatever you do, find a way in which you can leave the world a little better than when you first arrived, as well as make a living.
6. Remain Forever Curious
“Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.”
The one thing that will never change is the understanding that the world is a dynamic environment. While we may not like change once we have found our footing, we are thankful for it when we are in a situation that isn’t to our liking. On both sides of the coin however, we understand that change is inevitable. By remaining curious, continually asking questions, discovering new information about the world you live in, you gain wisdom and the opportunity to inch ever closer to your fullest potential.
7. Establish Personal Balance
One of the key messages in Arianna Huffington’s speech is that success not be defined solely by money and power, but rather along with wisdom, curiosity, giving back and attention to our well-being. This last point is crucial. In order to perform at your best each and every day you must respect the need for a regular good night’s sleep, regular mind and body restoration and the opportunity to allow your mind and body to recover when they are overtaxed.
8. Master your Finances
Personally and professionally, financial wisdom and follow-through are necessary to get where you want to go. So while living in the moment, focusing on what you are doing, you must also keep the future in sight. Whether it’s understanding where you should invest or how much of loan you can afford to jump start your dreams, become financially savvy and save yourself unnecessary headaches.
9. Utilize the Morning
In Laura Vanderkam’s upcoming book, What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast, she shares the science behind the benefits of getting up early and getting started with your day. Studies have revealed that our willpower is at its strongest early in the day which can allow each of us to exercise more regularly, be creative consistently or participate in a variety of other tasks with our best and less-likely-to-be-interrupted focus.
10. Know the Difference Between Good and Bad Risks
“Take calculated risks. That is quite different from being rash.”– General George Patton
A good risk involves planning, understanding the possible outcomes of failure or success and being willing to handle the results either way. A bad risk involves no forethought and a prayer. Choose wisely.
The process by which one attains success and maintains it is a purposeful journey. It is a journey that involves self-discipline, vision and resolution. And by examining what has worked by those who have come before, we can all assure more opportunities for success in our future.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. What have found to be your truths when it comes to attaining and maintaining success? Share in the comments below or on Facebook.
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