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Three questions to define success

On his deathbed, Sam Walton had some sort of realization.  

We can’t know the exact realization was because he is dead.  

But he gave us a clue. 

After a life spent counting pennies, working non-stop, and being always “on,” he reportedly ended his life with the phrase: “I blew it.”

The quintessential American businessman who created an empire died thinking he blew it.  

Wealth matters and I am not going to suggest that it doesn’t. Money is how we distribute limited resources in our economy, so if you want anything from heat to Instant Pots to education, you need money.  

Chasing money and chasing things becomes an endless game, however. First, you want the car; then, once you have it, you want a different one. 

You buy a house; then you want a bigger house in a new location and on it goes.

The drive for more can overwhelm. The universe always seems to know exactly how much money and stamina you need to maintain yourself and maybe just stretch to that next goal, the better car or, the bigger house.

However, the universe does not know how to take the weekend off or take a vacation or spend time with your kids unless you define success as including these things.  

There is no magic: the universe is you and it is constrained your mindset.  The reason the universe knows your limitations is that you set the limitations.

If you want something different you have to start by changing your mindset.

Your mindset tends to focus on what is possible based on your past experiences. But the truth is anything is possible; the question is, what do you want to create? Human-centric success has three parts:

Success Part 1: Wealth

Yes, money matters. Maybe someday we will live in a Start Trekian utopia where nothing is scarce, so everything is free. But we certainly are not there now.  

So, one aspect of your success, of what you want to create, is wealth.  

Question 1, therefore, is What is the wealth you want to create for yourself?   

What is the wealth you want or need? What does wealth even mean to you? Is it important to you to have an endless stream of material possessions?   

Success Part 2: Freedom

The second part of success is freedom.

You have the opportunity right now to live your life the way you want to live your life. What does that mean to you?  

For me, a life without skiing, hiking, yoga, or travel is a terrible thing. My family lives across the US and Mexico, so if I can’t travel, I can’t see them. So, the freedom to be in different parts of the world and work a schedule that aligns with travel – and skiing – is essential.

I also don’t do well reporting to an office every day. 

A highly structured environment does not work for me at all. I need the stimulation of variety, so the freedom to work with different people, on unique challenges, and in different places is important to me.  

For others, freedom may be working short weeks, pursuing hobbies, having a high degree of structure, caring for kids, teaching, or a million things that haven’t occurred to me.  

So the second question is: 

Question 2: What is the freedom you want to have? 

Success Part 3: Impact

Simon Sinek tells the story of the Wright brothers and compares them to Samuel Pierpont Langley. Both were working on solving the problems of human flight. Langley had all of the assets, support, and publicity but lacked a passion for the project.  

The Wright Brothers wanted to change the world through flight.  

Langley was driven by fame and fortune; the Wright brothers and their team were driven by impact.  

This is your “Why,” as Sinek puts it. Knowing your “why” matters in business because it connects you with your prospects and your employees. It aligns.  

But it goes beyond that. You have the opportunity right now to change the world. 

Maybe it is a small change, perhaps it is a massive change, but you can make a difference. Impact is motivational and fulfilling.  

The impact I want to have is to empower people to take control of their lives, create businesses that thrive, and help them live well. I image a community of business owners, entrepreneurs, and freelancers living well through developing and delivering products/services that make a difference and support a better world.  

I would like to impact 10,000 businesses. 

That is a small fraction of the businesses out there, so it may not be a massive impact, but if I can help 10,000 businesses, I feel like I will have done my part.  

So, the final question is: 

Question 3: What impact do you want to have? 

Working hard is okay. Building wealth is excellent. But the lesson from Sam Walton, I think, is that focusing only on wealth is limiting. There is more to life, and you can achieve your wealth goals, freedom goals, and impact goals.  

Rather than look back on your life and think that you blew it, look back on your life and be amazed at what you achieved.  

Step one is to change your mindset. Focus on the bigger picture and to deliver something meaningful. You can and will do it. You just have to start.  

So, what’s next? What wealth, freedom, and impact do you want to create? 

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