About Me

My photo
Born in the US, raised on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, lived in Italy, the US, and Canada. Lover of language, travel, colour, and the natural world.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Reverb10, Day 19: Standing on the shoulders of giants

Prompt: Healing. What healed you this year? Was it sudden, or a drip-by-drip evolution? How would you like to be healed in 2011?

The author of this prompt is Leoni Allan:
2011 Creating Your Goddess Year

"If I saw further, it was because I stood on the shoulders of giants." -Isaac Newton

"If you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never come up with anything original." -Ken Robinson

I have been exploring the idea of success this year. Success in my career. Success in relationships. Success in my fitness regime. Success in my service activities. I have been talking to people about success, observing people who I consider to be successful, and learning what being successful in my life means to me, and working hard at acquiring the skills, knowledge and attitude that facilitate success.

You may wonder what success has to do with healing. I think it has quite a lot to do with healing. In order to succeed in life, I have to not only have the skills and knowledge that nurture success, but I have to feel happy, confident, energetic, hopeful, and courageous (among many other things). These are not virtues that I can pretend to possess, nor is it possible, in my opinion, to succeed in life when I am feeling hurt, insecure, fearful, uncertain, doubtful and unsupported. It is true that even someone who is generally a happy-go-lucky, successful person has days when they struggle, but such days are the exception rather than the rule. I do not think that any human being is ever completely healed -- most of us have had experiences that have been hurtful, or that undermine who we are to some degree, but as long as we are open to healing, we are able to see that the glass is, indeed always at least half full, and not half empty. And a glass that is half full is usually held by a person who is on the road to success.

As a result of my observations, experiences, and reflection, I have come up with a list of things that appear to nurture success. I am sharing them here because I am interested to hear if you will agree with me, and because I would like to expand my list -- in other words, this list is a work in progress, and I am hoping that you will have other things to add to it after reading this entry.

Things that nurture success: 

1. A positive outlook on life. All of the individuals that I have observed who seem to be successful in their chosen professions, and who seem to have strong, happy relationships with their family and friends are people who manage to see the positive in any situation. My former employer, and a very successful organic farmer back on Prince Edward Island, Raymond Loo, was one such person. No matter what happened over the two years that I worked for him, I never heard the man utter a negative word, and no, I am not exaggerating. An added benefit of always seeing the glass as half-full, which I noticed as a result of spending so much time in Raymond's company, is that you attract other people who are positive and energetic to you, and you are given opportunities that you do not expect receiving. You also end up with a large network of friends and supporters, because people want positive, happy, energetic and enthusiastic people to succeed, and will do anything in their power to help you. Visualize a positive outcome, brings you that much closer to achieving it.

2. Never assume anything. Always be willing to go the extra mile, to ask that question that is burning inside of you. People who never assume things usually uncover opportunities that others miss simply because they do not ask the question.

3. Do what you love. Dr. Paul Samuelson, the first American to win the Nobel Prize in economics said "never underestimate the vital importance of finding early in life the work that for you is play. this turns possible underachievers into happy warriors." One thing that I have noticed again and again, is that people who pursue work that they are passionate about do not consider it work at all, and the reason is that it is a constant source of joy, energy and inspiration. This does not mean that it is not, in fact, hard work, but when you are engaged in something that you love doing it no longer feels like work. I have noticed the same about relationships -- happily married couples always tell me that yes, it is work to maintain a strong relationship, but that they enjoy the process because they energize each other, and are constantly learning together.

4. Surround yourself with positive, energetic, passionate and supportive friends and colleagues. This is not hard, when you love what you do, and always approach life with a positive attitude. Other positive people are drawn to you like magnets. Energy attracts energy. The quote at the top of the page by Isaac Newton reflects how important the company you surround yourself with is to being successful. Having mentors is also an indispensable support. In his book, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, Ken Robinson highlights the importance of at least one strong mentor figure. He says: "...role of a mentor is 'stretching.' Effective mentors push us past what we see as our limits. Much as they don't allow us to succomb to self-doubt, they also prevent us from doing less with our lives than we can. A true mentor reminds us that our goal should never be "average" at our pursuits." Another role that mentors serve is connecting us with people who help us find our way to success. People who are successful are usually surrounded by other people who helped them get to where they are.

5. Courage. Everyone who I have met, thus far who believes they are living a successful life, and I am not saying that it is a rule -- just my experience -- has felt fear. But successful people push through their fear. They do not let it limit their growth or experience in life. M.J. Ryan, in her book Trusting Yourself: How to Stop Feeling Overwhelmed and Live More Happily with Less Effort, says that "fear is the sign you're at a growing edge." She also says that "like a plant turning toward the sun," we should "aim for what we want, rather than running from what we don't." Susan Jeffers, author of Feel the Fear . . . and Do It Anyway, talks a lot about courage, and the importance of moving through fear instead of allowing it to prevent us from moving forward. Rachel Naomi Remen, in My Grandfather's Blessings: Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging, says that "wisdom comes most easily to those who have the courage to embrace life without judgment and are willing to not know, sometimes for a long time. Roberto Assagioli, the founder of psychosynthesis, told one of his students that "there is no certainty, there is only adventure. Even stars explode." Being willing to not know, and to take a risk, seems to be a necessary step towards being successful at anything in life. As Helen, Pilcher, a science comedian, says, "my advice, should you be contemplating making [a] leap, is to make like a lemming and jump."

6. Intuition. People who are successful tend to be very good at distinguishing between the lack of personal capacity or opportunity, and the lack of the right conditions. Sometimes an individual has the capacity to succeed at something, but is not in the right place, or it is just not the right time for whatever they are doing to succeed yet. Ken Robinson, in his book The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, tells a story about Death Valley, "one of the hottest, driest places on earth." Ken explains that not very much grows in Death Valley because it only gets on average two inches of rain a year. But in the winter of 2004-2005, more than seven inches of rain fell on Death Valley. As a result, in the spring of 2005, Ken explains that Death Valley came alive, the floor of the desert exploding with wild flowers. Apparently people came from all over the country to witness this once in a lifetime event. What Ken's story illustrated, very well, is that this event proved that Death Valley was not dead at all. As Ken says, the desert "was asleep. It was simply waiting for the conditions of growth. When the conditions came, life returned to the heart of Death Valley." There are many writers who describe the importance of intuition. Rachel Naomi Remen, in My Grandfather's Blessings: Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging, says that "presence is a more powerful catalyst for change than analysis, and we can know beyond doubt things we can never understand." Ralph Waldo Emerson said that "all our progress is an unfolding, like a vegetable bud. You first have an instinct, then an opinion, then a knowledge as the plant has root, bud and fruit. Trust the instinct to the end, though you can render no reason."

7. Responsibility. Successful people recognize that they have a certain skills that are unique to them, and that possessing this gift means that they have also been given the responsibility to hone their skills to the best of their ability, and to share these skills with the world outside of themselves. Deena Metzger says that "to deny that we are gifted is, perhaps, to indulge in false humanity, which allows us to shirk our responsibility to the gift...Gifts must be developed and passed on." And Anne Frank said that "everyone had inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don't know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!" and M.J. Ryan, in her book Trusting Yourself: How to Stop Feeling Overwhelmed and Live More Happily with Less Effort, says that "self-trust is the capacity to embrace our individuality so that we may fulfill our destiny. Understanding that we do not have to be everything allows us to accept our originality in all of its splendid particulars."

8. Faith. Having faith is what sustains highly successful people when they are tripped up, and they are tripped up, just like the rest of us. But because they have faith that every choice they make will lead to an opportunity to learn something new, they throw themselves wholeheartedly into everything that they do. John Maxwell, who is cited by M.J. Ryan in Trusting Yourself: How to Stop Feeling Overwhelmed and Live More Happily with Less Effort, captures the importance of faith perfectly when he says that "according to the law of aerodynamics, the bumblebee should be unable to fly. Because of the size, weight and shape of its body in relationship to the total wing span, flying is scientifically impossible. The bumblebee, being ignorant of scientific theory, goes ahead and flies anyway." Of course human beings are very aware that we will probably experience tests and hardships. What allows some of us to take risks and live our lives to the fullest despite the very real possibility that we might have a number of false starts and probably quite a number of crashes before we reach our goal, is not ignorance, but faith. One of my favourite quotes from the Baha'i writings, which I repeat on a daily basis, and has gotten me through many rough patches, is by Abdu'l-Baha. he says: "I give you a commandment that shall be for a covenant between you and me. That you have faith; that your faith be steadfast as a rock that no storms can move, that nothing can disturb; and that it endure through all things, even to the end...as ye have faith, so shall your powers and blessings be. This is the balance, this is the balance, this is the balance."

9. Confidence. Confidence takes practice, but it goes hand in had with faith, courage, intuition and doing what you love in life. Another quote by Abdu'l-Baha that I memorized, and recite quietly to myself when I am in a situation that I find intimidating, or when I can sense that I am beginning to feel fearful about a presentation or job interview, or some other event that is important to me is this: "The greatest divine bounty is a confident heart. When the heart is confident, all the trials of the world will seem as child's play. Should they throw him into a prison, should they cast him into a black well, should they heap him all manner of afflictions, still his heart is content, peaceful and assured." After I recite this, I am able to enter the meeting or interview with a confident heart, and all my doubts immediately disappear.

10. Spiritual happiness. This may not seem important to some, but the people that I have known who are truly successful in their personal and professional lives recognize that human beings are not physical beings having a physical experience, but spiritual beings having a physical experience. In other words, they realize that the physical reality that they are surrounded by is simply that -- physical. Physical realities can be very real one moment, and be gone the next moment, so basing ones happiness on such an uncertain reality is not very sustainable. The successful people that seem to embody success in every area of their lives acknowledge that there is something beyond the physical experience, and that is the spiritual reality. Abdu'l-Baha explains this far, far better than I ever will be able to, in Tablets of Abdu'l-Baha, (pp.674-675), when he says: "Happiness consists of two kinds, physical and spiritual. The physical happiness is limited; its utmost duration is one day, one month, one year. It hath no result. Spiritual happiness is eternal and unfathomable. This kind of happiness appeareth in one's soul with the love of God and suffereth one to attain to the virtues and perfections of the world of humanity. Therefore, endeavor as much as thou art able in order to illumine the lamp of thy heart by the light of love."

11. Believe in yourself. This is very connected to having faith, courage, self-confidence and courage. When you believe in yourself and in what you are doing with your life, you are able to receive criticism without taking it personally, and you are able to learn from your successes and your challenges, and use every experience that you have to make you a better, stronger person.

12. Embrace change. People who succeed not only recognize that change is necessary and inevitable, they are leaders of change. They see change as exciting and inspiring. They love coming up with new ideas, and working with other people to implement these ideas. As a result, successful people are always at the forefront of cultural and technological innovation. They are agents of change in their communities and their businesses.

13. Collaborate. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, collaboration is essential to success. Consultation, in the business world and in relationships with family and friends, leads to unity of thought and action. And unity of action is powerful stuff! It is very hard to stop the momentum generated when a group of people collaborate on coming up with an idea or project.

14. Humility. Some of the most successful people I have met are also some of the most humble. I am not certain why this is, but my guess is that it is because they recognize that they are not responsible for their success. That there is a force larger than themselves that gave them the capacity and skills that they have, and provided them with the opportunities to strengthen these skills over the course of their lifetimes. Whatever the reason, humble people are generally polite and grateful, and tend to be well-liked by their peers. They are also good listeners, which means that they learn more than those who overly enjoy the sound of their own voices. Because humble people are curious, they always seem to be the ones asking questions, and are therefore always learning about new ideas and ventures. I also find that humble people are more likely to be self-confident. Interesting how these virtues interlink and overlap.

15. Generosity. Successful people are generous with their time and their knowledge. They volunteer in their communities. They act as mentors for people just getting started in their careers. They open their homes to family members and friends. They are warm and welcoming. They have an abundance of joy and energy, and therefore want to share it with those they care for. 

16. Creativity. Success and creativity seem to be tightly bound together, which is not surprising. The more creative a person is, the more innovative ideas they tend to come up with, and because successful people are also more likely to take risks, more of their creative ideas are likely to be implemented and find a receptive audience. Ken Robinson said that "creativity is the process of having original ideas that have value." In other words, having them does not make a person creative. Turning the ideas into reality, so that they can be valued, is what makes a person truly creative. 

And finally,  

17. Abundance. The universe is abundant. Many people think see the world as not having enough to go 'round, but successful people recognize that this is simply not true. They see the world as a place overflowing with so many wonderful ideas, inspiration, energy and people that there are not enough hours in the day to tap into all of the abundance that is spinning around us at any given moment. The abundance of the universe is so obvious to them that they often express amazement at the behavior of those around them who have not yet begun tapping into this abundance. 

There are undoubtedly many more things that could be added to this list. I am all-ears, and hope you will help me to complete this list!  I hope this list, and the links that I have included in it, inspire you on your path of self-discovery.

No comments:

Post a Comment