Success means different things to different people. So define it as you wish. I read a book this past summer called, The Lazy Person’s Guide To Success: How To Get What You Want without Killing Yourself for It. I highly recommend it for anyone in any career or line of work. The book largely focused on success at work – as many of us do. But it does talk a lot about how a successful career means very little if you don’t have the time do the things you want to do, as far as the rest of your life is concerned. Spoiler Alert: The book actually ends with this final note, “If you can’t enjoy a leisurely breakfast at least five days a week, you ain’t no success. You’re a fake.”
Earlier this academic quarter, a professor of mine had us fill out an information sheet about ourselves and asked us what success was. My response was, “Success is doing all the things you love on your own time.” For many of us, that’s going to take some time. And like everyone else, I’m working on it. But the following might help us along the way:
1. Write your goals down.
I am amazed that people still question the value of writing goals down. Writing them somewhere you can see them every day will force you to do something about them – even if it’s to eventually only get rid of them. And there is a trick to making goals. Make short-terms ones and make long-term ones. That whole, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” is actually an awful, awful question. Know what you want in the next fifteen months and know what you want in fifteen years. Five years is too murky to deal with unless you are making a business plan. You get a pass if you’re making a business plan. Of course your goals should be SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely – especially the fifteen-month set. And I am of the opinion that “realistic” is a term best used liberally.
2. Surround yourself with people you want to be like.
One of the most resonating things I have ever read in any book was, “You are the average of the five people you hang out with the most.” I hate to break it to everyone but when our parents told us at a very young age to choose our friends wisely – they weren’t kidding. If you’re spending a great deal of your time with underachievers, chances are, you’re heading down that path. I’m not saying pick friends and acquaintances because of what they have, but because of who and what they are. And that means, motivated, enriching, well-rounded, and dare I say it, intelligent people, will rub off on you. And above all, remember that great character beats great personality every single time.
3. Learn how to stand up for yourself.
When I was younger, I used to be really bugged by what I saw as my mother complaining. My mother comes off as a quiet person – very sweet and kind and good. And she is. But rest assured, my mother would not allow anyone to walk all over her especially when it came to getting something for her children. And while I was always very embarrassed as a child that “she just had to say something,” I’ve come to respect it. You don’t get anywhere in life by letting people walk all over you. Return that drink if it’s not what you wanted, send those shoes back if they’re not the right colour, and communicate to co-workers, bosses, friends, and family, if you’ve got something to say that they need to hear. And yes, you can say it without being rude. Because in the end, people are busy thinking about themselves. And unless you make your presence known, you’re just going to be another extra in their life’s movie, starring them of course.
4. Work efficiently.
One of the best things I read from the books this summer was the notion that this thing we call, “hard work” to many people, means nothing more than long hours. Long hours are not hard work – they are long hours. I can sit in an office for 10 hours, no problem. But that doesn’t mean I’ve done anything worthwhile. I’ve had the privilege of at least partially working from home since I graduated college and it is one I relish. I am more efficient and overall, a lot happier. Now having studied organizational communication theory, it all makes sense. But I digress, efficient work means you do the most, in the least amount of time. And why would you do this? Because no matter how much you like your work – it is still work. And there is more to life than doing it. And if your work doesn’t allow you to have the time to do other things you want to do, even if you have the money, maybe it’s time to re-visit your success definition.
5. Always remember this: Perfection is the enemy of the good.
I believe it was Voltaire who said that. And I used to want to be a perfectionist but life was unexpected enough after college, that along with a lot of other things I thought I should be, “perfection” was tossed out in the trash. Going back to the book from this summer again, the author discusses how his first book – The Joy Of Not Working – was published sooner than many others for the season, in order to be able to have better success in the market. But this was at the cost of doing more reviews of the book. And indeed there were many errors in the first book. But apart from a few disgruntled English teachers who sent him angry letters, the reviews of the book were great and it was a hit. I think all writers, particularly online writers, where our work can so blatantly be judged have experienced grammar attacks. The truth is my face will meet my palm every single time I see my errors. But if I were to review my articles to the point of perfection, I’d probably write only one a week. And I think we can all relate to this in any job – attaining perfection can sometimes mean a serious loss of achieving goals. Of course there is a middle ground: doing a good job, and doing it in a good space of time. But stop seeking perfection, it is not only the enemy of the good, but also the enemy of success.