There really is no shortcut to success. It takes constant work and repetition to create the skills necessary to build your best life.
It is only with hard work that greatness can be achieved. Too often we look at those around us and end up envying their possessions, fortune and fame. The truth is that we can be unfair in those moments.
Why are we upset about another’s good fortune?
What are we fighting for—a home full of “stuff” or a better life?
Are we jealous or are we seeking opportunities that may be withheld from us?
We seem to forget that the cornerstone to success isn’t luck but effort. Success—in whatever form it takes for you—can only be achieved when you direct that effort toward your goal. You can’t wish for a better tomorrow. You have to build it one day at a time.
We can dream of having the fortunes of others.
We can wish for the winning lottery ticket.
We can imagine the great deeds and generous donations we would make if only we had “the money.”
When we do those things, we missed the point. We spent all of our energy dreaming but never planning. We will spend all our time imagining how we would spend uncollected fortunes, but we will never plan a way to make that fortune.
For some reason, too many of us spend our days stuck hoping that the our lucky day will come, that we’ll will win the lottery, or that a windfall will find its way to our doorstep. I find that discouraging. Why can’t we spend our days actively building that better tomorrow? What can we do today other than dream?
Desire can be a two edged sword. It can motivate you to accomplish more when you wield it as a tool to aid you in your labors. However, it can also easily hold you back if you spend your time longing for the golden blade of your neighbor.
A blade wielded is a helpful tool. A blade set aside or longed for performs no labor. It’s better to use a rusty blade to accomplish your work than to do nothing. What does it matter if your tool is old as long as it aids you in your purpose?
In modern words, use the tools you have. Don’t let your hangups, embarrassment or opinions keep you from achieving your goals.
It seems everyone has heard of at least one apocryphal or even modern sage who has some “secret” to share for achieving your best life. They speak confidently that if you listen carefully, and follow their instructions precisely, you will ultimately find happiness.
The goal we are told to seek is flawed. We look for joy and forget the truth that the concept is fleeting. We treat our emotions as if they were tangible goods that could be bought in any marketplace. Then, when we can no longer grasp and hold on to this phantom “feeling,” we flounder in despair.
We struggle, and we fight against the world. We do more of the “right” things. We follow more of the same archaic rules. We continue to rely on the illusion of hope, because we’ve invested so much time and energy toward this single idea that we can’t bring ourselves to admit defeat and change our course. We act as if action and belief are enough to manifest joy and banish pain. We desperately justify and narrate our stories with grand fictions placing ourselves as either heroes or tragic victims. We create myth so that at least in fiction there is a version of happiness that will last the remainder of our lives.
This is the happinesses illusion. We end up blaming our failure to find our unobtainable goal as a defect in ourselves—in our faith, in our character or even in our will. Those “secrets” we were given only led to empty promises, and our unfounded hope binds us to an unpleasant truth.
We can do all the right things.
We can follow all the rules.
We still won’t find lasting happiness or joy.
Somewhere along the way we drew the erroneous conclusion that happiness should be the goal of life. We decided pleasure and joy were the endgame. If we could just achieve this almost sublime state of mind, then we had made it to the “promised land”—the mystical height of the human condition.
This is clearly untrue, but we still blindly support this belief system. Every time we make it our goal and purpose in life to be happy, we set ourselves up for failure. We reinforce this false dynamic with happiness traps.
If only I could save up enough money to buy a house, I’d be happy.
If only I could finish school…
If only I could get this job…
What’s keeping us from being happy with what we have? What’s preventing us from living successful and impactful lives without acquiring something more?
We all understand that happiness feels good. Pleasure is fun and it’s easy to to pursue. Who doesn’t want to have a little more fun in their lives? In contrast, hardships are unpleasant and we will do our best to avoid them. So, we end up choosing the wrong priorities. We stop thinking about how we can can live more impactful and influential lives, and instead we focus on what we can acquire to make our days a little more convenient and less burdensome.
Just because we avoid hardships doesn’t mean we should seek happiness as the end goal. The unfortunate truth is that we’re incapable of being happy 100% of the time. Happiness is a subjective, emotive and ever-adapting response to our environment. Happiness has never been a tangible measurement or a lasting state of mind. We can’t weigh happiness and ensure everyone keeps 5 lbs of joy on them at all times. So, why do we keep acting as if joy were something we can purchase or acquire through hard work?
Emotions are temporary responses to changes in our environment. By definition they cannot be sustained indefinitely. You can’t keep yourself in the throes of jubilation laughing for the rest of your life over the joke you told when you were in the third grade. Happiness is a roller coaster of highs and lows.
I can have a rough morning and find true happiness savoring a cup of coffee.
I can break my leg and find bliss looking into the eyes of my partner who’s there by my side.
I can lose my job and still come home to an enthusiastic, tail-wagging dog who always wants to play and has no concept of his human’s trials.
Happiness is like the rising and setting of the sun. It’s always there if you know both when and where to look for it. Joy is the metaphor we use for reminding ourselves to pause and appreciate the passing of the time.
All things come and go.
Bad things will eventually end.
Good things will ultimately disappear.
We need to make peace with the reality that we’re temporary—just like happiness.
Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve. —N. Hill
There’s always a place in my home for a textbook on how to win in life. I can’t promise Hill has all of the answers. What I can guarantee is that he has some wild ideas, but in the end you’re going to appreciate his philosophy of action and effect. Sometimes we need the not so subtle reminder that our failures in life can be our own fault.
We have the remarkable ability to choose our thoughts, words and actions. So, at the end of the day we have to acknowledge our ownership of our personal lives. We can choose how we think, and as a result we can grow into our vision of the future. It only makes sense to recognize that how we spend our time and thoughts will have a large impact on how we achieve the future of our dreams.
I have read this text at least once a year for the past three years, and every time I find the seed of motivation I need to make the life changing actions necessary to be resilient in the face of adversity. I can’t promise this will work for you, but I can confess my life, career and prosperity have increased each year since I’ve begun this journey.
I fondly wish you the resilience necessary to be steadfast as you begin your own journey toward a brighter future.