Recently, I turned forty-seven and stumbled upon a thought experiment that made me mentally – and physically – ill. It was humbling and disturbing.
As I was contemplating this reaction, I was reminded of a quote misattributed to Einstein, “You cannot solve a problem with the same level of knowledge that created it.” Of course, what Einstein really said in his May 25, 1946, The New York Times interview entitled, Atomic Education Urged by Einstein is, “a new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels.”
I’ve recognized over the last several years, and what has become tragically obvious since January, is to thrive in the second half of my life I need to not just reevaluate, but completely abandon, many of the lessons I’ve learned about business, relationships, money and success.
To paraphrase Einstein, “a new type of thinking is essential” if I am to survive and thrive at a higher level. After all, contrary to my Pride’s insistence, I cannot do it all.
As a result, I decided to relearn some professional and personal lessons through a variety of channels. For example, I’ve hired a bookkeeper and virtual assistant and am reaching out to a Professional Development Coach and actively building a team of emotional, professional and spiritually supportive people my life.
Among other things the Professional Development Coach started with a simple set of twelve questions. The first question is, “what defines success for you?”
It seems like a simple question.
However, four hours later I’m still staring at the first questions and realizing that nearly everything I write is bullshit. I’ve started and deleted a dozen possible responses because I realize that nearly everything I wrote in response to the first question was based on writing for an audience: an audience consisting of my ex-wives, my dedicated USMC Drill Instructor Staff Sargent Pyle, my hypocritical high school football coach, my daughter, the bullies at my seventh grade bus stop, my dead grandparents, well-intentioned parents and even the dedicated nuns at my Alma Mater.
Some of the responses to the first questions even attempted to present myself in the best possible light to a business coach I was paying.
As I said, I deleted it all.
On the umpteenth response I’ve settled on this answer to the question: what defines success for you?
At this point in my life, I’m rather indifferent to external social measurements of success. Although many would argue that I’ve always been rather indifferent about external measurements of success they would be wrong.
However, within my personal life I would define success as the unintended outcome of choosing a life that allows for freedom to travel, new life experiences, challenging learning opportunities and adding constructive value to the community, nation, world and times that I find myself living.
Professionally, success would be based on personal and professional development resulting in opportunities to write, research and present ideas, concepts and projects I personally believe are progressive, optimistic, forward thinking and can positively impact the lives of individuals and communities.
Only eleven more question to go…