Harvard Business Review, February 2004
Success That Lasts
"Pursuing success is like shooting a series of moving targets. Each time you hit one, five more pop up from another direction. Just when we've achieved one goal, we feel the pressure to work harder to earn more money, exert more effort, possess more toys ... many people assume success requires a winner-takes-all approach. They believe that success depends on putting all your energy into achieving one goal, be it a single-minded focus on your job or a commitment to being the best soccer mom in your community. But no matter how noble, one goal can't satisfy all of a person's complex needs and desires ... Success requires more than a heart-pounding race to the finish line. Our research uncovered four irreducible components of enduring success: happiness (feelings of pleasure or contentment about your life); achievement (accomplishments that compare favorably against similar goals others have strived for); significance (the sense that you've made a positive impact on people you care about); and legacy (a way to establish your values or accomplishments so as to help others find future success) ... Unless you hit on all four categories with regularity, any one win will fail to satisfy. You'll experience what we call the 'wince factor': You know you're doing what is right, but it still feels like a loss. You're preoccupied with thoughts of the other things you could be doing or getting ...": Laura Nash, senior research fellow, and Howard Stevenson, Professor, Harvard Business SchoolI started this blog almost two years ago for the same reason I am now writing this post. Another year was about to go by, things were going well ... yet I tossed and turned at night asking "now what?"
"Succcess is a journey, not a destination," Arthur Ashe once said.
And it has been a wonderful journey indeed. Honestly, I don't think I could've asked for more. At the age of 27, I have traveled, visited, watched, seen, and experienced more things than what most people ever have during their entire lives. I have played with almost all the toys money could buy--including gadgets that many (especially in Europe) thought had existed only in sci-fi movies. I have constantly pushed my limits, and from time to time, beat the odds.
Yet, despite all this, I still feel like I'm missing something, constantly wondering, "now what?"
It's not that I feel that I have nothing more to prove. I still enjoy working on the new challenges and beating the even more (seemingly) impossible odds.
It's just that I feel like all I do is climb, climb, climb. But the higher I climb, the greater the stake gets, the fiercer the competition becomes. And the harder the falls. Which makes turning back or slowing down--even just to look back--never seems to be an option. "When you stand still while everybody else is moving forward, you are actually moving backwards," my father told me all the time. "And the world would not just stop to wait for you."
Then last week I met someone who had always lived her life like there would be no tomorrow. She has lived in six or seven countries (I lost track) in three continents and speaks six languages ... mostly learned "on the road". Unlike me, she did all these without much planning. "I bought a ticket ..." and somehow she managed to get by through the ways of hitchhiking, camping out the highways and the rest stops, and doing everything and everything: from farm jobs, tourism works, and miscellaneous odd jobs to support herself.
"As for the future? I don't know that. But for now, I will try to stay in Belgium to care for my grandma."
It probably is not easy to be her ... yet she seems to live a life that brings her satisfaction in everything that she does. No baggages, no regrets, no worries.
Realistically speaking: chances are, there would be tomorrow. And the next year. And the year after. And when that day comes, I probably would not regret all the things I had done to prepare for that day.
Yet, maybe I have felt so lost because I have been so busy trying to meet tomorrow's challenges that I have forgotten about the other things that make today, tomorrow, the next year, and all the following years, worth living.
The little things that turn even the simplest forms of successes ... meaningful.