I‘ve had the last 7 days off of work – all centered around 2 trips to see Madonna live – and now I’m on the verge of heading back tomorrow. I always suffer from a little re-entry trauma whenever I take a significant amount of time off work, and this time, because I’m not feeling physically all that great and despite the fact that it was fun, it was not the complete recharge I was hoping for. In so many ways, I program extended periods of time off work for failure. I always say as I get to the end of the vacation that I “didn’t get done what I wanted to get done” and then, pressed to say what it was that I wanted to get done, can’t really articulate it.
All this got me to thinking about success, and what it really is. What does it mean to be successful? One of the things that I’m really hung up on is that somehow, my success as a man, as a father, as a husband, as a human is tied up in how financially successful I am. That’s a very old script that plays in my head. Let me also say that I would never use this criteria for success when looking at anyone else’s life – only my own. Money and finances are a huge trigger for me – nothing sends me as quickly and directly down the spiral of anxiety like finances do. Part of it is that I feel like I’ve been dealing with it my entire adult life, using various tactics to maneuver the challenges that my life has thrown at me. Some of these challenges are the result of life circumstances and some are the result of bad decisions on my part, but regardless, they’re here to deal with now and there’s not much point in placing blame unless it is to try to figure out ways to avoid them in the future.
I’m not sure how I came to equate financial stability and success with overall success in my life, but I have. I recognize this as faulty logic, but try as I might, I can’t seem to break the association. I was talking about it with my wife the other day and pressed to name ways that my grandfather, who died in 2007, was successful, I had an incredibly difficult time. My incredulous wife rattled off an entire list. Sure, he had money, but that wasn’t the way he was successful. He was surrounded by family and love. When you went to his house at Christmas, the feeling of family was palpable. He dealt with a significant hearing loss his whole life and I never once heard him complain about it. He helped all his children to the best of his abilities. The financial legacy he left behind is almost beside the point when you think about the things that his almost 90 year life meant.
So perhaps it’s time to redefine success in my brain. Or at least what it means for me to be successful. Having it tied up in finances is just dumb. But rather than try to list reasons that I am successful when I so frequently falter on financial things (at least in my mind), I decided to make a list of at least 7 things that made me successful in the last 7 days, lest I start telling myself that I “failed” to accomplish what I wanted during my time off work.
- I successfully tweeted my way into the pit for MDNA Kansas City and provided my friend Jeff and me with a once in a lifetime Madonna experience.
- Armed with this knowledge, I passed my pit knowledge onto a new Twitter follower that I don’t know from Adam as he had pit tickets for the St. Louis show 2 nights later.
- I have become at least passable at mucking horse stalls.
- I trick-or-treated with Anna and her friends (although I did maintain a respectable distance.)
- I helped Anna understand angles.
- I spent time with good friends and strengthened relationships. Relationships of all types need tending and I felt like I had a good opportunity to do that with so many people during the last week.
- I got the dishes done almost every day.
Ok, so the last one was a bit of a stretch, but I was having a hard time getting to seven things. Whether or not that says something about me, I’m not sure, but it is what it is. These 7 things got done this week, even though I didn’t rake a single leaf, get the garage cleaned out or clean up the basement.
My dad always used to tell me when I was in college that I needed to give every day a letter grade and in so doing, I had to look honestly at the whole day because sometimes, one bad thing made an otherwise pretty good day seem worse than it was. And yeah, some days are more successful than others. I’m determined to not allow financial success or failure determine the entirety of my self-worth. I would like to encourage readers to use the comments or (the comments on the FB link) to share their ideas of what success is if you are so inclined.
But in the meantime, we’ll always have Roxette.