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What's Your Relationship To Success: Fame, Money, Status or Lack of Regret?

regret self discipline success

Self discipline is not about transcending all of life’s struggles. I struggle every day and I’ll tell you what, I’ve never met anyone honest who doesn’t either.

My most recent struggle was believing I was successful. Understanding your relationship to success is critical to understanding self discipline. For years, decades, I never thought I was. Turns out that I was using the wrong measure of success. I was measuring success by income. I had fallen trap to all I am about to outline in the next few paragraphs. This was my blindspot. And this is really important because it’s pointless mastering the art of self discipline if at the end you always feel like you have failed.

I read the transcript of a commencement speech by writer David Foster Wallace. Here's a taste ....

“If you worship money and things then you will never have enough. Worship your own body and beauty and you will always feel ugly. Worship power - you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart - you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out.”

Let me share with you how I measure my success now.

Money is not my measure of success

What I know about making money you could stick in a matchbox and still have room for the matches.

Power is not my measure of success

I’ve never been a CEO (chief envelope opener) … though I like to think I wear the pants in my family and I’ve got my wife’s permission to tell you that

I don’t measure success by fame

I can tell you exactly how famous I am. I am famous by the measure of one. A delivery man was typing my name into his electronic scanner and he said, did you write a book about being a globe trotting cameraman? The one and only time.

I don’t measure my success by intellect

I never went to university but I did do really good at school if you don’t count learning. I know know that my love of learning is greater than my ego. I am willing to go back and eat dirt, start at the bottom rung of the ladder if it means I am growing and expanding who I am.

My measure of success is lack of regret

I have none. I go to the grave today with no remorse. There is not one thing I wish I that I think if only I had done that. Hand on my heart that is how I feel. Sure there's a few hurtful things I have said to people where I wish I had of had the wisdom at the time to just shut my mouth. Just know that I could be hit by a car tomorrow and you'll know I died happy.

People at the end of their life invoke the holy trinity of regret. Woulda Coulda Shoulda done that. People regret things they did but four times as many regret the things they didn’t do. Cornell University Study

Now that my metric for success is lack-of-regret I feel like the richest person in the room. Talk about the power of a mental mindset shift. It is very real. How I see myself now, as compared to others who have the conventional trappings of success, is completely different to how I saw myself two years ago. And it is worth noting that the problem was never theirs. The problem was squarely mine. But that was yesterday.

So how do you frame success?

It’s worth considering. You can make meaningful change in your life, but just like a beautiful piece of art, you’ll never be happy if you stick the wrong frame around it.

By the way, if you think you’re atheist and you don’t worship anything, get over yourself, yes you do. We all do. Read or listen the David Foster Wallace commencement speech to clear up any quibbles you may have. Address this part of the self discipline puzzle right now. Once you have stop chasing the metrics of money and status and make lack of regret your focus then self discipline will work for you. You are now clear on what job is and you have the right tool for the job. Any tradesman will tell you it's so much easier when you have the right tool for the job.

John Wooden, American basketball coach and someone you should know about has a wonderful definition of success:

"Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming."

Have a think about this? How do you want to be successful?

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