How to define success – personally?

As we finished the last article quoting Abraham Lincoln, I would like to explore further what he was talking about.

He wanted to make himself worthy of men’s esteem. People don’t talk like that anymore. Without being too tedious – esteem means to have a high regard or admiration for someone – in other words, to be respected. So Lincoln’s success criterion was to be respected because he made himself respectable. “…I have no other so great as that of being truly esteemed of my fellow men, by rendering myself worthy of their esteem.”

As far as I know, Lincoln did not make his success criteria becoming president. It seems that his presidency was shaped by his previous target of “…rendering myself worthy of their esteem.”

Consider these two questions: What do you want to do when you grow up? And, what do you want to be when you grow up? They are often interchanged; which may be part of our challenge when discussing success. For this discussion I am going to ignore the issue of growing up.

Lincoln found his passion in debating and politics – doing. He found his worth in what kind of man he determined to be – being. Without his resolute determination to be worthy of esteem, his political career may not have had the foundation necessary to withstand the challenges within his career path.

Have you seen the motivational poster depicting Lincoln’s career? It lists nine items in which he “failed,” including: failed business endeavors, lost love and emotional collapse, and losing six different elections. Measuring success by external standards, Lincoln was, in fact, a failure. But, do we really believe that failing at something makes us a failure? If so, is the opposite true that successfully hitting a single target make us a success? I bet you can list multiple examples of people having great success in an area, yet most of their lives are a mess. Their “being” is not up to par with the “doing.”

How about the value of the journey? As mentioned in a previous post, the journey may have at least as much value as the destination. What if we suggest that Lincoln’s journey prepared him for his ultimate destination? The journey solidifying his inner quest of being esteemed – so that no matter what situation Lincoln found himself in, his inner quest took precedence. His success was being measured by some other criteria than business revenue or election outcomes.

The combination of knowing what to be, and then pursing what is loved (or passionate about), is a powerful combination. In the example of Abraham Lincoln, this combination changed the world.

What do you want to be?