I was reading Aniela Gregorek's chapter in the book Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferris* over the weekend and this quote really hit me...
To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children… to leave the world a bit better… to know even one life has breathed easier because you lived. This is to have succeeded.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
I won't lie, an involuntary sob even escaped (yes, I am a cryer). Aniela Gregorek is a former political refugee who is now a weightlifting champion, business owner and author. So her story was inspiring enough, but I couldn't quite work out why this particular quote affected me so deeply.
I realised that it's because it was a definition of success that had nothing to do with society's version - which basically amounts to being rich and skinny as far as I can tell (plus a whole host of other expectations based on gender, race, religion, community and more.) So it made me want to define success on my own terms.
Now, I'm not going to wax lyrical about what success means to me, as I feel like I need to spend some time connecting with the question before I do (probably to be revisited in another blog post.) So I’m going to claim Emerson’s definition for now and break it down as a way to get me feeling into what it means to me, and how I can make it my own…
Life and business often get way too serious. A lot of my fondest memories have a good dose of laughter splashed through them. A good giggle is a great way to connect with other people and to relax - I love nothing better than an evening giggling with friends, in front of a funny movie or reading a good novel. I’d love my business in particular to involve a lot more laughter - what about you?
The other thing for me is to ask, “What makes laughter easier?” My sense of humour is in tact when I’ve had plenty of sleep, relaxation time and nourishment, when I have more energy and I feel good. Without those things, laughter doesn’t come quite so easily.
Now I wasn’t sure about the first part of this sentence because at first it sounded like trying to impress people but then I re-thought it. It feels good to be respected and those people might be intelligent in all sorts of ways including emotionally and spiritually. These intelligent people could be your friends, parents, partner or children. In fact, it was the inclusion of “the affection of children” that balanced this statement out for me, because there’s no bullshitting little children – they’ll only accept the real, authentic, you! I think the most intelligent person I know is my friend's three-year-old son.
This really resonates with me. Many have big goals when starting a business – pretty much wanting to save the world and impact thousands if not millions of lives. Others just want to help transform lives one at a time, or make a better future for the people in their small corner of the world – their community and/or their family.
The great thing is that I bet you have already helped at least one life “breathe easier” at some point in your life. And isn't it nice to think that could mean you're already a success? That you can celebrate yourself now. That you are succeeding simply by helping people and travelling the entrepreneurial road... by being human. You are worthy now… not at some later date when you've hit an arbitrary goal. You are worthy of feeling good, worthy of enjoying life, and worthy of loving what you do and doing what you love NOW!
Oh my, I got a bit excited there didn't I!?
I know that there is probably plenty more that I could include in a definition of success, but I felt like this quote popped into my awareness at just the right time. It’s important to create your own definition of success (or nick someone else's that resonates like I have) as this will be what you work towards as you run your business, providing a guiding light along the way. And you'll probably find that you begin to experience some of that as you go, making the journey much more enjoyable.
Right, I’m off to arrange a playdate with my friend’s little boys – laughter guaranteed 🙂
*By the way, Tribe of Mentors is a great read. It’s a hefty tome so it's not handbag sized, but it contains bite-sized and awesome advice from "the best in the world" in all sorts of industries - from authors to comedians to investment bankers. They have each been asked to answer the same set of questions and their answers are so varied that you realise that there really is no "one size fits all" when it comes to success.
Oh, and if you use Amazon, try Amazon Smile instead of your normal account as eligible purchases will result in a donation to charity (at no extra cost to you)... or you could just support your local bookstore 🙂
Does this quote resonate with you? How would you define success? What quotes, statements or phrases have really struck you recently? I love to read your tips, tricks and insights, so please share in the comments box below.