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…

Deadly Sins: The New Testament

Pride, Lust, Envy, Greed, Gluttony, Wrath, Sloth…traditional deadly sins of which we are all familiar and from which we all suffer. From these core drivers come the ugliest of human behavior – betrayal, deceit, violence…

But there is a new sin emerging.

Or rather one which has emerged and has fully gripped our society: Entitlement.

Entitlement looks a lot like Greed, but it’s become so much more all-consuming and rampantly present than simple Greed. Greed is defined as an “intense and selfish desire for something, especially wealth, power, or food.” So Greed, in short, is desire. Entitlement is, somewhat benignly I think, described as “the fact of having a right to something.”

Well, we’re Americans, so rights a good thing, yes? In fact we built a country on the premise of having certain inalienable rights, did we not?

So what’s the problem?

It’s this: We have, through intent or ignorance, fostered an entire nation filled with individuals who genuinely believe they are entitled to their greed. The world owes us something, we are entitled to all that is available in the free world, and we are entitled to have it without working for it, paying for it, earning it.

Coincidentally, while searching for the exact definition of Entitlement, Google was kind enough to provide this Entitlement Definition & Graph that shows an exponential increase in the use of the world Entitlement starting in 1950. Perhaps we’ve twisted it’s meaning for our own selfish purposes, as humans often do with so many things, and now here we sit with Entitlement compounding Greed and leaving us with only a weak, lazy, spoiled people to represent us, to carry us forward.

How proud our forefathers must be.

I did not grow up rich, and I’m not rich today. My parents were not married. My dad was an alcoholic. I did not grow up in one place. There were days I wore dirty clothes to school. I was not one of the popular kids, and no one paid for my education. I made bad choices, did stupid things, and have had to reconcile myself with a lifetime of regret. I’m up to my ears in debt for a multitude of reasons.

And while there are things I desire, I want for nothing. I’m proud of what I have because I worked – and continue work – my ass off to get it. And so I know the value – not the worth but the value – of my life. I can’t imagine being happy any other way.

If you want a better life: work for it. Earn your way, build your world, make the right choices, lay your own foundation brick by brick, and then keep doing that and appreciate all you have created. Revel gloriously in your own ability to survive under any circumstance.

If you fight one sin fight this one. Fight Entitlement.

Because here’s the thing…

Parents, children, all those of you who live today, those who believe their lot in life is not of their making, those who will have a hand in raising future generations or touching lives, hear this now and believe it: The world owes you…nothing.

The Thing

Does anybody remember the movie City Slickers? I was thinking about the scene where Billy Crystal asks his co-worker something like, “Do you ever wake up and think: this is the best I’m ever gonna be, this is the best I’m ever gonna look, this is the best I’m ever gonna feel?”

No? Well here’s an easy one: Can you tell I just had a birthday?

I’m an April Fool’s baby. (And that’s how you have to say it. Not: “My birthday is April 1st” but: “I’m an April Fool’s baby,” because even if I do just calmly and maturely state the date of miraculous entrance unto this party we call life, whoever I’m talking to will inevitably say, “Oooooohhh! And April Fool’s baby!”)

Well let me lay this one on you:

A least one explanation suggests some ancient cultures, including those of the Romans and Hindus, celebrated New Year’s Day on or around April 1st. Then in 1582 the Pope replaced the Julian Calendar with the Gregorian Calendar, which put the celebration of the new year on January 1st.

Allegedly, people either refused to accept the new date, or simply did not learn about it (let’s remember that information did not travel at near the speed it does today) and just kept on observing New Year’s April 1st. So, of course, given that all societies are only made up of kind, generous, upstanding blokes and sheilas (no, I’m not Australian, but I like to think in an accent sometimes – there’s certain flair to it), people started making fun of the Julian Calendarists, sending them on “fool’s errands” or otherwise trying to trick them in some way.

Why did you need that history lesson? Because even the most ridiculous of us (the Fools, if you will) can find at least one cool/unique/different/interesting/intriguing thing about themselves. And more importantly, each of us has something that is terribly important to us. The thing that makes us wake up and breathe every day, the reason we get out of bed and face the day.

And just like Curly said in the aforementioned nineties movie, if you can find that one thing and hold on to it like hell, then all the other noise fades away. You always know what really matters, and by focusing on that one thing you create your own North Star by which to guide your choices, your words, your character.

It’s not as easy as it sounds, finding that thing. Or, rather, it hasn’t been for me. Perhaps you’re one of those people who knows your thing, clearly and with great passion. You’re lucky, my friend, if that is indeed the case. I believe, only through my own observations and suppositions, that the people who don’t have The Thing are those who flounder and flail the most. (Notice I said ‘flail’ not ‘fail’.) Without your North Star you are much more likely to become lost, and the more lost you become the harder it is to find yourself.

Can I claim to know my Thing? Maybe not entirely. Can I say that even when I feel I’ve identified it that I never get lost? Certainly not. But then getting a little – or a lot – lost is all part of the journey to finding your Thing. (Not that thing, you dirty bird. Get your mind out of the gutter and stay with me here.)

My journey still continues, I believe, and it’s gone a bit like this: parents divorce, learning rejection, first true broken (demolished, obliviated, crushed, wrecked, ruined) heart, new friends and finding joy, awkward teenage years, not-so-awkward-and-fairly-mischievous teenage years, teen marriage, paternal estrangement, war, budding relationship and identification of my significant issues, paternal reestablishment, adult marriage, amazing career opportunities, paternal death, introspection, Atheism, blog.

There re you go. Life in 10 seconds or less. And it goes on. The one thing I’ve identified that seems to surface at every turn is what I think is my Thing: Love.

No, not being IN love or finding  love, etc. But love as a compass, love as a North Star, love as The Thing that guides me in word, action, thought, and character. Because while LOVERS may fail you, friends, family, colleagues, PEOPLE may fail you, love never does.

Love as an action (or actions) that you can control, that you can choose, cannot fail. But the trick is you have to choose it – over and over and over- every day, because we are constantly provided with ample ammunition to reject using love as a guide so we can act out on our baser desires. Like revenge, anger, pain, arrogance… Those things often feel good in the moment, but like a night of drinking they leave you with a lingering aftertaste (and some kick in’ breath) shortly after the fun is  over.

So I *think* love is my Thing.

I hope – fervently – that it’s my Thing.

What’s yours?