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The truth about what it means to be successful

Have you ever wondered what really comprises success? Why does it take different forms and definitions? The author shares his personal insights.
By James Altucher |
The truth about what it means to be successful

Goals are man-made. And in one lifetime we will have many of those. And our small brains have never developed the capacity to understand what goals are in our own best interests.

Success dresses up for Halloween and pretends to be that moment. That moment when you've accomplished your BIG thing and you think that's all there was to it, this sojourn here on the planet—finishing the big thing and saying, Done! I did my job as a human.

Success is a cheap god that gives you pleasure for a second before sticking the knives in and throwing you out of heaven.

With so many possible definitions, what really is success? Because it is not money. That I know. And it is not some physical achievement. That I know. It is not a book written or a reward received or a job completed or a promotion anointed.

Related: The 9 skills needed to become a super connector (LinkedIn )

Here are the stages of success that I think exist. I can easily be wrong. This is what works for me now.

Stages of success:

Goal. You've created something of so much value to the masses that the value gets reflected back to you, like a reflection in a pond on a clear day.

People look up to you. Money is showered down. This feels like success.

But, one might say, donuts can be mistakenly perceived as creating value for the many. So many people might get pleasure from your donuts that your ‘success’ knows no bounds.

So this definition might be suspect.

Happy. You're happy with a spouse, job, place, and your private creative achievements.

You wake up and the birds sing. You're happy. But we all know we age. People die. Creativity always carries on its back the weight of the criticisms all too eager to pile on. So this success is fleeting and hence suspect.

Healthy. I always advocate a daily practice: Every day attempt to improve just 1% along physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual pillars.

This has been the only thing that has worked for me when I've been at my lowest points—whether divorce or bankruptcy or a single email criticizing me.
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But in the pit of my stomach right now is a tiny clench of anxiety about who will I meet today.

Who will I reach out to today? What value will I bring today? What can go wrong today?

What can go wrong to the people I love today? What anonymous strangers will reach out and attempt to strangle me today?

We have bills to pay. We have children to feed. We have people to touch. The world never ends with a bang but slides like a snake from one day to the next.

Is it success if we are physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually healthy? If we improve those areas by 1% each day? I think that's closer.

Don't forget to live in the present.

Presence. Most of my life I time travel.

I've spent much time in the future analyzing the possible alternatives and being afraid of everything bad about to happen.

I've also spent valuable hours in the past, replaying, rewriting, regretting.

"But you have to focus on tomorrow," people say, "so today you can best prepare for it."

Related: Multi-tasking will kill you (LinkedIn)

Freedom. Some of us are in prison. Some of us are in man-made prisons, forced to do what we don't want to do to feed our families and stay alive. Some of us are in self-imposed prisons, "if I don't do THIS then I've FAILED."

We're the only jailers of these prisons. The doors are always open.

We open the doors by lowering our expectations. We walk out the doors when we realize how easy it is to exceed those expectations.

man_329817_640.jpgLearn what you can. Live what you can. Provide the value you can but just for this moment.

In a universe filled with a trillion galaxies and a trillion more years, there is no anointed goal that, when accomplished, will cause you to shout, "Success!" That's a myth.

Doing the best we can this moment is success. It brings about all the other stages of success described above.

The best way to have a successful tomorrow, and a successful life, and a successful legacy, is having a successful moment right now.

I can't claim to do it. I try and usually I fail. Success is not meant to be every second. Else, how would you know what to compare it to?

Be gentle to yourself. You're a little baby and someone needs to cradle you and whisper to you and love you.

Then do the best you can. Right now. And if you can't, then when you can. No self-judging. Maybe that's the best success.

The pressure to have a goal, to have success, will take you further and further from success.

Be gentle to yourself this moment, and stand in awe of everything we can't possibly understand.


LinkedIn Influencer, James Altucher, published this post originally on LinkedIn.


Copyright © 2015 Entrepreneur Media, Inc. All rights reserved.

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com. Minor edits have been done by the Entrepreneur.com.ph editor.
    

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