Project Finish Line: The Definition of Success

Welcome back, friends and few readers I have remaining! I am a neglectful blogger as of late, but rest assured this is the one time you’ll hear the words “It’s not you, it’s me” and have them be 100% fact.

My life, like yours, is very full at the moment. Full of challenge and tragedy, fear and frustation, new friends, great joy, travel adventures, new pursuits, old habits, a bit of wine, and lots and lots of coffee. I have no idea what the purpose of all this beautiful madness is, but I keep doing it and am learning to have fun with it where I can. 

First let me share some joy (coupled with frustration!): I am a size 8 (at Express; F those other designers). In six months I lost 20 pounds (and put 5 back on), 2 sizes, and gained health, strength, a teeny tiny bit of speed, a dash of motivation, and the ability to simultaneously breathe and run. 

My book is in it’s final editing stages, and my finances are still a nightmare. Ha! But the beat goes on, and I consider my accomplishments, though requiring of consistent and ongoing dedication and effort, a success. It’s all about the continuation of the process, the journey. Keeping taking those steps forward, and you will continue to meet small victories. Or at least maintain those you’ve achieved. As an overachiever and perfectioniast of sorts, it’s often difficult for me to truly celebrate my succcess, because until recently i’ve measured success only in terms of that which can truly be metricized (not a word, but should’t it be??) – what can be counted, compared, weighed, etc. 

But then I went to Saint Louis at the end of February and sat in my Harvard National Preparedness Leadership Institute training session and was introduced to a different and, I think, much more healthy definition of success. 

The doctor facilitating the session asked us all how we would define success in our own words. Across the room I and some of my colleagues immediately went to career, income, accomplishments. Others cited family, love, the successes of their children. And why wouldn’tw we? We have people who depend on us, adventures to take, and bills to pay. Success is ensuring all of those things can happen without straining resources too much yes?


Or perhaps not.

The doctor relayed the greatest definition he’d every heard from one of his class participants, and I’ve stolen it and am sharing it here today. If I knew the man’s name, I would happily credit him with his genius. Alas, I do not, so if you’re out there and reading this, kind sir, my hat is off to you and I welcome you to leave a comment and claim your (limited on this blog) fame. 

I’m going to share this exceptional peace of wisdom with you now. No, no – don’t dive right in. Stop for a moment to prepare yourselves to have your mind utterly and irrevocably blown. Stretch a bit, take a few deep breaths, get a glass of water if you like. I’ll waith. This is important. 

Okay. Are you ready? Here it comes. 

The definition of success is that no matter where you are going, you can’t wait to get there. 

Did you get that? Simple, right? 

And yet how profound. 

Think for a moment about the last three places (phsyical or not) that you’ve been today. Work? Home? Grocery store? On a date? To the gym? To a movie?

Were you excited to go to those places? Why or why not? If you were, great! I’m so happy for you! 

But if not – IF NOT – then why did you go there? Well, groceries are required to live. Fair enough. But did you buy wonderful, healthy food to make a fantastic and cost effective meal? Did you engage your kiddos in cooking with your, or did you revel in exporing necessary culinary arts on your own like a closeted Emergil Legasse? Did you say “BAM!!” when you added a dash of spice or a pinch of flavor? Did you  laugh at your own ridiculousness or listen to music you loved while you did it? Did you use a recipe or a kitchen tool handed down by a relative or call up your mom/dad/grandma/best friend to ask about their recipe or reminisce about the time you did the thing at that place while you at the one dish?

Or what about your job? Do you spring out of bed in the morning and rush to get to work because you were excited about soe project or person? To be honest, I don’t springs anwhere before 10:00 AM and at least 16 ounces of coffee, so no worries if not.  But did you at least not have to pull yourself out of bed by your own hair before getting to work and sitting in the parking lot breathing just to force yourself to walk in the door? Come on – we’ve ALL had THAT job. And perhaps there’s just no getting out of it because of adult responsibilities and obligations – I get that. I get that in the most painful way. Are you doing anything to make it better? Do you at least enjoy the peolpe you work with? Hell, do you even get off a little on pushing your boss’s buttons if nothing else? I love my boss, and even I enjoy getting him gassed up – just cuz I can. 😉

What about home? Do you love, love, love your single life? Thre freedom and independence to do what you want to do when and how you want to do it? Or are you jazzed to go home to your family?  

Do you love to work out or read or watch movies or do brunch and happy hour, or even just walk the neighborhood?

I know for many of us these little luxuries are just that – luxuries. And how do you get excited by a life that you feel you’ve somehow just ended up oin? How can you feel jazzed to go to a job you hate to pay bills you can barely afford (or can’t afford at all??) to support a family you can’t stand? Letls be honest – some of us have those. So how is succes achieved, by thie definition here, when you hate your life and feel trapped in it?

Well that is the million dollar question,isn’t it?

Here’s what I’ve come up with: small changes over time. And consistency. 

I’m NOT an expert, and I have no advice. I’m just as fucked up as the next guy. In fact, proabably more so. I can only tell you what I’m doing to acheive this measure of success. Figure out what I want, focus on it, and make small, manageable changes consistently over time. 

Earth shattering? Probably not. But I’m open to suggestions.


Next time we’ll lighten it up a bit and go DIY. I have three completed projects I need to post, so stay tuned…

Walking Dead Wyoming

One of the benefits to a job that covers a wide geography is travel. This weekend, I went from Colorado to Wyoming to facilitate a class – a trip, I might add, of 4 hours and 20 minutes which I made driving alone.

For those of you who have been hanging around for a while, you might know that I enjoy being alone but I also tend to get a little lost in my own thoughts which sometimes – okay, often times – leads to strange things when I’m left to my own devices. Just imagine what happens during a 4 hour solo drive through high desert and cattle land.

Platte River at Sunset

Platte River at Sunset

It started out innocently enough. Some AC/DC, a little pop, then some country – all accompanied by lots of singing (I won’t make any such claims as to the positive or negative quality of the singing…); then came a few random phone calls; then a long and enjoyable (for me) conversation with a telemarketer; some worrying about things and stewing on a few others (I’m a total ‘festerer’ when something bothers me – I’m obsessive…); and then finally an enjoyable line of thought brought on by the solitude, the vast expanses of open land, the feeling of the old west and hard living and simplicity:

I thought about the absolute utopia that is The Walking Dead.

I know dystopian-based stories abound these days, and I can’t say all – or any – of them inspire me the same way, but I see nothing but freedom in a world where the only things that matter are the things that really matter. No fashion, no gossip, very little in the way of politics, no money, no “reality” TV, no Real Housewives of “Fillintheblankstupidplace”…

Sure, it would be inconvenient to lug around a machete all day. And who wouldn’t get a little depressed with all the moaning – or suffer a bit of PTSD from the constant surprise zombie-sneak-attacks (don’t they always seem to just appear at the worst moments???)?

Scary, right? Totally zombie apocalyps weather.

Scary, right? Totally zombie apocalyps weather.

Just survival: safety, shelter, food, water. The lowest levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy.

I crave that return to basics. I suppose I’m a bit of a minimalist anyway (aside from my clothes/shoes…I do love fashion). My walls are white, my cabinets are white, my carpet is cream, I have only photos of a personal nature hanging on the walls, I abhor (abhor!!!) knick-knacks and anything that requires dusting; I hate wasting food, building material, or anything else I spend money on…you get the picture.

I’d probably die in the first 30 days of an actual zombie apocalypse, but I think I’d die satisfied (providing I died of a merciful gunshot to the head before being torn apart by the flesh-eating undead). I’d die having finally lived for things that matter.

The Tetons. Surrounded by plenty of edible buffalo.

The Tetons. Surrounded by plenty of edible buffalo.

As I watch our world (and specifically our country) fall apart at the seams – failing economy, decades-long wars that have killed over 33,000 Americans to no avail, school shooting/stabbing sprees, and on and on – all I can think is, “If we didn’t have so much spare time to make up things to occupy our time with, we might actually be functional.”

Who has the time to go to war in a foreign country when you’re trying to protect your own home and family?

What value is money (paper backed by rare rocks, for crying out loud!) when the only things we need – food, clothing, shelter, safety – cannot be bought?

Would children bully each other to death when they depend on sheer numbers of warm bodies to survive?

Would gay, straight, black, white, male, female, young, old, muslim, Christian, agnostic, atheist…any of it…matter when all we have is each other?

And if the answers to these questions are, as I suspect, no one, nothing, no, and it wouldn’t, then why do we let it matter now?