I found success; then I got better.
I found success; then I got better. Most of my life has been spent in the pursuit and achievement of success. I have consumed countless books on success and leadership. I have devoured everything I could get my hands on outlining the meaning of success and how to achieve it.y
I knew the meaning of success. People walking in ministerial circles know being the most successful pastor means having the biggest church. In business circles, the most successful person is the one who makes the most money. This mindset personifies the adage, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” In both of those circles, with intentionality, focus and hard work, I was able to achieve what many consider to be success.
I recall a season of time I was working in sales, selling home security systems for a company enlisting more than 500 sales agents nationwide. I quickly realized that I had a knack for closing the deal. I was the top salesman. On payday company leaders posted a photocopy of my check on the leader board. Everyone could see what was possible when aspiring to achieve this level of success.
During this tenure my wife Kelley and I were expecting our third child, and for the first time since we got out of college, we had financial security. Everything was great. Soon someone from another company began recruiting me. The average commission sales agent was earning double my income. I told my wife I thought this was the perfect scenario for us. But for some reason, at the end of the day, when I went to bed at night, I had an emptiness inside of me. Even though I had success, I had no fulfillment. I passed on that new position.
BACK TO MY PASSION…People
Again, through intentionality, focus, and hard work, I found success–first, as a staff pastor at a large church, building a record-breaking Christian education program and volunteer base; then as the lead pastor of a growing church, with the establishment of an accredited private K2-12 academy, new facilities and numerous other accomplishments; and, most recently, building a coaching practice. I would soon discover that success, in and of itself, doesn’t bring fulfillment.
Truth be told, I have never seen a successful person who didn’t have another mountain to climb. People who achieve a lot in life are people who typically have a “dissatisfied satisfaction” or “discontented contentment,” meaning, even though they have reached a place where they understand what satisfaction and what contentment are, they always desire more.
When I was forty-five years old, I had achieved every goal I had set for my life. I had the house, the car, the family, the whole deal. I had worked hard. My friends would describe me as tenacious when pursuing a goal. Yet, I remember sitting and wondering, “What now? What’s next for me?” At this juncture in my life, I noticed two men who sit on my board and had a revelation that would change everything for me.
Bill is a top salesman for an insurance company. He owns a downtown office building in our city. He employs a staff. He lives in a large home with a waterfall- like fountain that flows into his pool; and that isn’t his only home. His favorite hobby is traveling, and it is fascinating to hear him tell stories of his trips to places like Beijing, Bali, Turkey, France, and Germany. You name it; if he hasn’t been there, it’s a bullet on his bucket list.
The other guy, Tim, lives in a modest home. He is a repairman who travels across the state working with his hands to repair pumps. His wife is a career hairdresser. His free time is spent playing golf, and his idea of a vacation involves traveling to Indiana to visit family. Truth be told, he is the dream husband, the guy every woman wants to be married to. He helps with dinner and laundry; he fixes things before they are broken and weekly details the family vehicles personally.
What strikes me about both of these men is they are both so completely fulfilled in their lives. Both men have wisdom beyond their years. Both are very highly regarded and respected. Both have raised children who love God. Both have grandchildren who adore them and whom they love unconditionally. Their lives are so different; yet, so much of their lives are the same. That was when it clicked for me, and I realized that there is something greater than success.
Success is often defined by someone else’s expectations of what life should look like. This is almost sinister. This mindset tells us that the teacher who gives her life in the classroom is less successful than the person who makes millions of dollars; or the wealthy are inherently evil because they must worship money in order to achieve their level of “success.”
Who would be deemed as more successful? Bill Gates or Mother Teresa? One is a man who revolutionized the way we all communicate through his skill and love of technology, and in so doing, was recognized by Forbes magazine as the wealthiest man in the United States. The other is a woman who gave her life serving and caring for the poor and lepers in India.
I would venture to say that it isn’t about success. It’s about two people who positively impacted lives in two totally different ways and both unearthed fulfillment.
A NEW WAY OF THINKING
It was no longer even on my radar to be the biggest or have the most. I stopped judging based on anyone else’s given standard for “success.” I determined that I am not living another’s life, just the one given me.
I found freedom in understanding that other’s expectations of what I should produce are not my standard. I may lead an organization with numerous employees and my role may be different from the other members of the organization, but I am no more successful or important than the teacher who spends every day in a classroom with 16 two-year-old children.
Don’t misunderstand me. I am not attacking the idea of success. Setting and achieving goals are admirable. But I am convinced that life is not about being successful. Life is about being fulfilled.
I had grown past the need to meet someone else’s standards. I am living to be fulfilled. Freedom comes with trying to live our lives in order to complete our divinely designed purpose. Believe it or not, an equation will help you find your divinely designed purpose and ultimately find fulfillment.
The equation looks like this:
Presence x Passion = A Fulfilled Life
Over the course of the coming pages, we will walk together through this fulfillment formula. I promise you that if you will do the work, you will find your own personal definition of success and what a fulfilled life looks like.
I recently navigated through the beginning of this process with a client that has achieved a great deal of success and renown in his field. As we talked about the first stages he looked at me and said, “This is hard.” You will no doubt say the same thing at various points along the journey; but at the end, you will have traveled further down the road to fulfillment than you ever thought possible.
Where are you on the road to fulfillment?