Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming. – John Wooden
What does that mean?
To me, it speaks to effort, and the peace of mind you get, the satisfaction you get, from doing something to the best of your abilities. I’m imagine most of you have either been in or witnessed a grade school concert. Instruments or vocals, it is quite an interesting scene. But, almost universally, the kids are pleased as punch with their performance. And why not, they did the best they could, and are very proud of what they achieved. Kids tend to, more so than adults, base success on a solid effort. Yeah, they may be not be pleased that they didn’t do as well as someone else, but they are pleased with their own effort. Adults tend to focus on the achievement of a specific goal, without regard to if it is within their ability or not to attain it.
Why is effort important?
Without effort, how would you get to where you want to be? How would you even know what your limits are, much less how to push beyond them? Effort is what gets things done. A dream or goal can pull you, but the push comes from within. Some would say effort is what you do when you run out of motivation, but I take a broader definition of effort – anything that isn’t trivial (as defined by your personal capabilities), requires effort.
To an NBA center, dusting the top of the china cabinet is trivial. To someone in a wheel chair, it will take some effort. In this case, it might be a physical effort, or it could be an intellectual effort to find a device that will extend their reach. But in whatever form it takes, it requires effort. To someone with a bad back or hip, picking something up off the floor will require effort. To most other people, it would be trivial.
By doing things that are not trivial, by putting forth effort, you can attain some level of peace of mind and at least a measure of success. Simply by doing the best job you are capable of. No matter how small a job may be, or how dirty, nasty or unpleasant. Do the best you are able to do, and be satisfied.
Where can I apply this in my life?
The first thing I would do, and I encourage you to do as well, is to write down a couple of things you want to achieve some measure of success in doing. Not necessarily “write a NYT #1 best seller”, but more like “write a book”. Once you have a few books under your belt, you can aim a little higher. What things are on your list? The list should have things on it that you really want to do, but they should also be something you will be proud of, even if you don’t achieve the desired goal.
For me, I am very proud of the work I have done on several daily drivers, as well as my project car. Even though the project car may never move under it’s own power again, I am very proud of what I have done. I have done the best I possibly could, and then got better and did more. I also really want to get it moving, but even if that doesn’t happen, I am very satisfied that I have done a good job, the best I could possibly do. Now a professional body man might scoff at some of my patches, but I’m not a pro body guy. I plan to paint it suede and drive the wheels off, I’m more for function than form.
How about you? What are some of the things you want to do? Select one and brainstorm a bit as to what, specifically, you wish to do as the first thing? I started on the car path by learning basic auto maintenance. What is the first step for you? If you want to learn to paint, do you know what style? Should you start with a history-of-art class, or just a book from the library? Is there a particular artist you would like to emulate? Where can you take a class on the fundamentals of artistry? How you hold the brush, how deep to dip into the paint, how to apply the strokes to the canvas, these are all basic skills. Yes, different artists made styles their own by changing some of the rules (or at least bending them a bit), but without a basic knowledge of the fundamentals, how will you find these things out? Trial and error works, but is time consuming. It’s all about what works for you.
Once you have completed your first bit, whether learning fundamentals or completing a first draft, it’s time to celebrate the achievement. Now comes the fun part. Do you want to do it again? Raise the stakes? Push your limits? Will it be a longer book, work on a tighter writing style, more details or back to fundamentals and revise the first work? Will you do another painting like the one you just finished, or will you try a different style, larger canvas, or even paint on a board instead?
Repeat as often as it is still challenging, and as long as it is still fun. Keep trying to get better. Whether that is to write better prose or paint more precisely in the style you like best, keep after it until you find satisfaction in each work you complete. If that isn’t as good a definition of success as I have ever heard, I don’t know what is. How about you?
From: Twitter, @Sports_Greats