Success is often defined by power, prestige, and profit. Yet many who achieve these status symbols eventually ask: “Is this all there is?” How disappointing it must be to invest so much time and energy in achieving challenging results only to realize your ladder of success has been leaning up against a counterfeit wall.
In her bestselling book, Thrive, Arianna Huffington states: “Wisdom frees us from the narrow reality we’re trapped in—a reality consumed by the first two metrics of success, money and power, long after they have ceased to fulfill us” (page 117). According to Huffington, it takes wisdom to identifying genuine walls upon which to lean your ladder of success. Yet wisdom is not just reserved for people with years of experience. Everyone can borrow words of wisdom from those who have gone before them.
I am blessed to have borrowed words of wisdom that enabled me to avoid the empty promises of power, prestige, and profit from a mentor I had during my teenage years. Because of him, I enjoyed what I consider to be a truly successful life early in my adult years and continued to do so through my 40s. Now, as I near the end of my 40s, I still enjoy a full and meaningful life, but I’m also experiencing more power, prestige, and profit than ever before while remaining grounded in the reality that these things have little to do with true success.
5 Words of Wisdom that Guarantee Success
Here are five words of wisdom I learned from my mentor that will help you to experience true success in your life, relationships, and career.
1. Pursue Passion More Than Profit
One message I heard again and again from my mentor regarding my career was to pursue passion over profits. He told me if I found work I loved, I’d never work a day in my life. He also told me that even if the work I enjoyed didn’t pay much, I’d eventually discover how to earn a good income. My career has played out almost exactly as he predicted. I started working for a nonprofit, and while the pay wasn’t great, I was passionate about the work. More importantly, however, I developed solid skills along the way. I eventually pivoted to start my own lifestyle business, which has allowed me to make an excellent living doing work I love. If I had to do everything over again, I wouldn’t change a thing. In my book, that’s success!
2. Hard Work Beats Talent
“Hard work beats talent every time talent doesn’t work hard.” Every modern-day athlete utters these words, but I first heard this concept from my mentor. The context was a David-and-Goliath moment in my life. I was passionate about basketball and wanted to be a starter for our school’s team, but my athletic ability didn’t support this goal. My mentor challenged me to invest ten times more sweat equity than anyone else during the offseason, stating that even if I didn’t accomplish my goal, I’d still benefit because the lessons I’d learn would be more valuable than the end result. To make a long story short, not only did I start, I led the team in scoring. But more importantly, my mentor was 100 percent correct. The lessons learned from this one experience have paid huge dividends in my life and work.
3. Excellence, Not Perfection
The most liberating words of wisdom I gained from my mentor is that excellence does not equal perfection. My mentor defined excellence as doing your absolute best with the resources you have. He always said, “Once you’ve accomplished excellence, move on. Don’t get stuck in the mud of perfection.” Like I said, liberating!
4. Big is Little and Little is Big
Everyone wants the big things in life—meaningful relationships, a great career and financial success. The secret to experiencing these big things is to make sure you get the little things right day in and day out. This is why my mentor continually encouraged me to get my head “out of the clouds” and to focus on doing the little things each day that would take me one step closer to achieving my big goals.
5. You Choose Your Spouse, Not Your Child
I went to my mentor for a lot of relationship advice, and he always told me the most important relationship in his family was his marital relationship. “My spouse and I are the only two in this marriage for the long haul,” he’d say. “She is the person I chose to spend my life with, and while we love our children, they are not going to be living with us for the rest of our lives (hopefully). Our marital relationship needs to be the center of our family, both for our sake and our children’s sake.” Before Kathy and I got married, we met with my mentor and his wife several times to talk about our future marriage and family, and they continued to tell us the same thing. Years later, we see how valuable these nugget of wisdom has been to our marriage and family.
Questions: Which of these words of wisdom resonates with you? What would you add to the list?
This article originally appeared in the Huffington Post.