I’ve had two themes/conversations that seem to be prevalent in my life lately.
1) What society defines to us/shoves down our throats as success, and what success actually is.
2) How the single most important quality that if I had to pick it out of a young person or anyone on the road to a big goal, in order to predict if they will reach that goal, is their ability to cope with rejection.
And in my reflecting this morning, I actually think both those themes are quite intertwined.
I had a really interesting conversation last week with a really good friend, someone I respect to such an incredible degree. This person was a national team athlete that walked away from elite sport at the peak of her career. She spoke about the struggle that she had because she had a peak experience in sport, mentally and physically, and knew that she had accomplished what in her heart, she knew was “success”. She said she struggled because she hadn’t gone to an Olympics, which was right around the corner, but that that goal, although rammed down our throats as the pinnacle of sport, wasn’t relevant to her.
She struggled with what the outside world told her to do, and what her heart told her, and eventually decided to walk away. Everyone wondered what she was thinking, doing it from a destination that everyone supposedly wanted to be.
My friend and I started talking about what defines success. We talked about how sometimes things like the World Cup or Olympics and the intense marketing of those events coupled with sporting brands, driven by corporate interests, has set success up as winning or losing. We spoke about how that external definition has messed with us as athletes, and as people and in many times, taken the joy out of the process by being so outcome driven.
For me, and I have spoken about it in my blog before, but you have to continue to mention something that has had such a profound impact: my Mom and her positive attitude despite the shit hand life has thrown at her by throwing her in a wheelchair with MS, has played in how I have perceived success.
To me, while champions are splashed across our TV screens running around playing a sport, she is a bigger hero and a bigger “success” than 99 percent of people that I’ve come across, by just getting out of the bed in the morning with a smile on her face and being able to laugh about the fact that it takes her 30 minutes to do things that most of us would do without thinking in 30 seconds.
And therein lies to me, the definition of success, that I wish we had thrown on us more often; it might not sell a ton of t-shirts or get lots of TV time, but to me, success is reaching the goal of
1) Doing your absolute best by honoring every attribute and opportunity you’ve been given
2) Being authentic to what makes you happy, and raising up everyone around you and pushing life in your domain forward, in a positive direction
3) Never giving up and keeping a positive attitude and believing in yourself and your goals, even if things aren’t going your way
With that being said, I think if you follow those steps, you are success and I don’t think there is one kind of success better than another.
Which takes me to the point that I just thought about as I am organizing big events, and working with a lot of female players that are pursuing the goal of playing college soccer over the last little while.
One of my success definers:
Never giving up and keeping a positive attitude and believing in yourself and your goals, even if things aren’t going your way
This is the thing I’ve realized. The bigger the goal that you set, the more that you inevitably are going to fail, and get rejected in order to get there.
I know personally in some components of my life, I am absolutely amazed at the mental fortitude I had with the amount of times let’s say in soccer, I didn’t play on teams, and was told I wasn’t good enough, and how I managed to keep going.
And on reflection, I do know how I managed to keep going. My wish would be for everyone to have their own reason to be able to brush off rejection.
For me, my reason is Irish, in a wheelchair, has the biggest smile on her face all the time and would say to me regularly how bad she felt for so and so and what was going on with them, because look how good we had it.
Getting rejected and continuing to keep going, wasn’t that hard, when I knew that just the ability to pursue an athletic goal with my health intact was a gift in of itself.
But that being said, for everyone pursuing anything, anyone that wants success, whether in the corporate definition of the word, or the one that makes your heart beam, or maybe they are one and the same for some: dealing with rejection and being able to not lower or shrink your goals because of it, to me is the one quality that ensures success.
And by success, I mean, that feeling where you can sleep at night because you know you have done everything you can, whether things pan out the way you want them to or not, to live the minutes of your day, trying to be the best version of yourself.
And for those of you that need a little motivation to keep going, here is my favourite poem, reserved for those special moments in life, when I feel ready to throw in the towel and walk away:
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill. When the funds are low and the debts are high, And you want to smile, but you have to sigh. When care is pressing you down a bit-Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.
Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns, And many a fellow turns about when he might have won had he stuck it out. Don’t give up though the pace seems slow -You may succeed with another blow.
Often the goal is nearer than
It seems to a faint and faltering man; Often the struggler has given up when he might have captured the victor’s cup; And he learned too late when the night came down, how close he was to the golden crown.
Success is failure turned inside out –
The silver tint in the clouds of doubt, And you never can tell how close you are, It might be near when it seems afar; So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit -It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.