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The Quest for Success

Success.  What is it?  How is it measured?  How is it attained?  We spend our lives working, striving, seeking to be successful.  When success is achieved, is that the end, or merely a stepping stone leading us to more?

What is Success?

Success is different for everyone.  Defined as a “favorable outcome,” it is preceded by the desires of our heart.  We decide what we want in life and then strive with all our might to achieve it.  Persistence, patience, and lots of hard work are essential elements of success.

Success does not come without experiencing failure.  Lots of it.  When I was eight years old, I begged my parents to let me play the violin.  Anyone who has listened to a violin student practice will agree it takes years before he or she sounds pleasing to the ear.  Many beginners give up as the rewards of daily practice are not realized for a very long time.

When I entered high school, my persistence began to pay off.  I was the concertmistress for our orchestra and we had an active drama department.  I spent many hours in an orchestra pit accompanying the musicals our school performed, loving every moment.  On the university level, I auditioned and became a member of the Philharmonic Orchestra, gaining exposure to various genres of music with opportunities to perform for larger audiences.

Successful moments were finally awarded, but not before making countless mistakes.  I remember playing in recitals and being embarrassed by my performance.  Vowing I would never play the violin in public again, I eventually reconsidered and attempted one more time.  I can’t think of a solo performance that was free of mistakes, but I kept trying.  Fortunately, success shines brighter than the struggle to get there.  Today I embrace the joy I received from playing the violin while the memory of failures has faded.

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”  Winston Churchill

Measuring Success

I love making lists.  At the end of a busy day, I check my list to find I can only cross off one or two items.  Was my day a waste, or did I achieve success through the back door?

We are the ones who measure our success.  I can refer to my list to determine if my day is successful, or I can count listening to a friend who needed me as a better use of time.  Sometimes we must see beyond the plan and take credit for the simple things.  Success isn’t always visible.

Another way we err is to measure our success using someone else’s ruler.  There are people who make success look easy, but we see the accomplishment, not the journey.  The only fair measurement comes from the person residing in our skin.  We are not in a race, we set the pace, and we determine the finish line.  Comparison breeds discouragement and low self-esteem.

We also become disheartened if we let others measure our success or lack of it.  We should never allow outside voices or opinions crush our dreams.  Keep believing.

“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.”  Abraham Lincoln (From the person who failed twice in business, had a nervous breakdown, and lost eight elections before becoming President of the United States.)

Don’t give up.  Someone said success is a journey, not a destination.  Once achieved, we can hardly sit and relax.  Successful people set another goal and keep pressing forward, knowing there will always be stumbling blocks to conquer.

“Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome.”  Booker T. Washington

Achieving Success

Determination and hard work are key components of success.  Both take motivation, a positive attitude, and belief in oneself.

Twenty-eight years after graduating from college, I decided to re-enter the classroom as an elementary school teacher.  My timing was not the best.  Two years of teaching experience would not amount to much when competing with the new crop of education majors.  I decreased my odds by choosing a year with more qualified candidates than job openings.

I decided to move forward with my plan in April.  Five months later I was preparing my first-grade classroom for the beginning of school.  How was that possible?

I believed I could do it.  And then I worked my head off.

Ideas change drastically over two and a half decades, so I dug in and studied the current philosophies and methods of education.  I read recent publications and textbooks and became familiar with new terms and practices.  Going on the Internet, I searched sample interview questions and prepared answers.  I was ready when the call came to interview and my efforts paid off.

Was getting the job the end?  It was just the beginning!  Now I had to work long hours to achieve success within the classroom and each year brought new challenges and learning experiences.  I made mistakes, some days I failed, but to see a child succeed made it all worthwhile.

A cancer diagnosis right before the start of a new school year became my toughest hurdle.  I dug deep to give my students the education they deserved and maintain a positive attitude while enduring months of chemotherapy.  There were many days I didn’t know how I could go on.  Mustering every ounce of strength, I did my best and succeeded in completing the year.  I still share a special bond with many of these students and their families.  The harder the road, the sweeter the success.

I will always be glad I didn’t let my weaknesses and deficiencies keep me from pursuing my dream to make a difference in the lives of children.

“Your positive action combined with positive thinking results in success.”  Shiv Khera

Success!  Then What?

Success has a short shelf life.  There is little time to celebrate because life continues and so must we.  Success breeds more success as we gain confidence in our abilities and potential.  Our failures are not failures if we learn from them.  Keep working, keep hoping, keep believing, stay positive, and the cherished yet fleeting moments of success will provide us with well-earned satisfaction and joy.

Why Stories Matter

Our life is a composition of stories, forgotten if not written or shared.  Enjoy this article, written by guest author, Rhonda Lauritzen, founder of Evalogue Life–Tell Your Story!

I didn’t set out to write my own family’s story, or anyone else’s for that matter. In 2007 the power of story showed up in my life out of nowhere. It started as a little spark, or a nudge just to pick up a pen somehow just feeling I should go with it. It felt like the whisperings of purpose so I circled a date on my calendar and decided to simply begin and see what was there. When that date arrived, ideas about my parents flowed freely and in the middle of that writing, I got a call my dad had just passed away. The timing, given everything that was on the page was unbelievably uncanny and in the middle of grieving, I felt that my mother and I should write their life story. Every Essential Element was published four years later, and the process changed me. People’s stories are now my life’s devotion and I have learned that they are far more important to families than I imagined.

 

Why? At a basic level, humans are storytelling animals, wired in powerful ways. We daydream with our minds telling a running narrative. At night, our minds continue right on with the storytelling. Children act out stories in play, rehearsing grown-up life through narrative. Every movie, television show, and most great songs are stories. Even television commercials grab us with mini vignettes. Interactive gaming creates whole worlds of story in which players become live action heroes.

 

Stories are how we learn, convey our culture and teach the next generation. Every religious text and oral history tradition passes a canon of stories to the next generation.

 

With that overview, I’d like to share three core beliefs I have about why stories matter:

 

First: Stories bind families together.

 

Second: Stories shape the meaning of what happens to us.

 

Third: Stories are how we will be remembered.

 

I want to begin with the first claim, and one of the most powerful reasons to tell stories. It is, simply:

1.  Stories bind families

In my own family, I could not have known when I began writing Every Essential Element that one day, I would have a child who would only know her grandfather, my dad, by the stories we tell about him. Now she has a book to read someday when my own memory has faded, to illustrate why we named her for this man. The process of writing about my parents’ values helped me solidify my own beliefs, encouraging me to become the kind of person who acts on faith.

 

In addition to my personal experience, there is a wonderful New York Times article entitled, “The Stories That Bind Us,” author Bruce Feiler tells of a time when his family reached a breaking point. Fear that his family was falling apart led him on a quest for the best research about what makes a strong family. He scoured the literature and came to a surprising conclusion, “The single most important thing you can do for your family may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative.”

 

In one powerful study, researchers found that children who knew more about their families did better in times of stress. “We were blown away,” the researcher said. Read related article about Bruce Feiler and the power of telling stories with your families.

 

The answers children gave to even simple questions like, “where were your parents born,” told whether they felt like they belonged to something bigger than themselves. It turns out that children with the most self-confidence have a strong “intergenerational self.”

 

Anyway, back to Bruce Feiler. He goes onto clarify that while all stories carry meaning, some are better than others. The most helpful narrative is one called the “oscillating family narrative” which goes something like this: “Darlin’, we’ve had good times and we have had some doozies. But no matter what happened, we always stuck together.” I love that they’re suggesting we whitewash the hard stuff.

 

In short, if you want a happier, more resilient family then put some effort into intentionally telling the story of your family’s positive moments and your ability to get through the difficult ones. This one simple act may increase the odds that your family will flourish.

2.  Stories shape the meaning of what happens to us

 

Since the beginning of time, humans have been telling stories around the fire. The Bible is in a story format for a reason. In short, story is how we teach and how we inspire. Story has the power to change people.

 

Here is one of my favorite examples of how story shapes meaning. In Helen Keller’s autobiography the part that stuck with me is where she describes how as a girl, the world existed for her as amorphous shapes that she did not understand. It was not until she gained language that she fully awakened. The ability to describe the world and put it into words made everything come alive for her. She came alive. As she discovered the world through language, she discovered her purpose in it.

 

I have also seen people evolve through the telling of their story. In other words, they sometimes grow right before my eyes. This usually happens when I am interviewing someone for a full book. It happened in the process of writing Remember When, with Norma Kier. She conquered her greatest fear at age 80 while we were still writing the ending.

 

There are times when I see something in the teller of a story that he or she may not have noticed in themselves. When I write about their life, they see it through a new lens and it often it solidifies their strengths or points out fences that still need mending while there is time.

3.  Stories are how we will be remembered.

 

There was no way I could have known when I began writing my parents’ story that one day I would have a little girl named after my dad, and that she would only know him through the book. Without stories passed on, she would share a name with a headstone but not have a connection to the funny grandpa, the passionate entrepreneur, and the in-love husband that he was.

Maybe there’s a great article or study to back up this third point, but instead I’d like to propose this exercise:

 

How many of your great-grandparents can you name?

 

Do details and personality traits come to mind about all 8 of your great-grandparents? Do you know how you take after them? What were their greatest triumphs and hardships? Here is a confession. I didn’t even realize I had 8 great-grandparents until I was an adult and did the math. Why? Because I only knew stories about some of them. Now I know them all because I have sought out their stories.

 

Am I right that the ones you remember best have the strongest stories attached?

 

It is curious to me that we spend so much money on gravestones, yet these markers tell little about people’s lives. It’s a sobering thought to me that by the time the last person dies who personally knew me, the ONLY memory will be stories passed down. Two generations, that’s all it will take to wipe out all memory of me.

 

In my own family, I have become more intentional to preserve the ongoing narrative of our story because I know it will strengthen us now, and in the future. I write each story as a love letter to the future. If you don’t tell your story, who will? It reminds me of song from the musical Hamilton, “Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?”

 

Rhonda Lauritzen is the founder and an author at Evalogue.Life – Tell Your Story. Rhonda lives to hear and write about people’s lives, especially the uncanny moments. She and her husband Milan restored an 1890 Victorian in Ogden, Utah and work together in it, weaving family and business together. She especially enjoys unplugging in nature. Check out her latest book Remember When, the inspiring Norma and Jim Kier story.

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