S* happens

The key to success?There used to be a bumper sticker going around that said Sh*t Happens. You might remember Forest Gump while running across the USA “inspired” the phrase when he stepped is some dog poo, and said to a follower “it happens….”.  The saying is supposed to have an existential meaning, perhaps a shortcut to something more profound.  Personally after years of working too hard, and watching so many others doing and still doing the same – while missing the more important things in life I like to borrow from John Lennon and amend it to use the phrase “life happens”.

I have been doing some work and having some discussions on the nature of success and how it is achieved. During my work on Emotional Intelligence I came across references in Daniel Golemans works on the impact of Emotional Intelligence on success and was testing the theories on the its contribution to success – but wondering if he had taken into account the actual meaning of success to the individual. For example if to one individual success was a cottage, a boat and some fly-fishing would Emotional Intelligence help a person achieve that. I came to the conclusion that factors that helped self knowledge and the ability to work with others is bound to help one achieve almost anything one sees as a successful outcome.

However – discussions about the factors that create success have been very interesting in that it is the vision, or the greater purpose that creates the success not working towards the success itself.  I was very taken by a comment made by Cory Kahaney in a television interview about how she worried about money and success until she got into comedy because she loved it – and success came while she was focused on doing what she loved and doing it well. She felt it was ironic that as soon as she stopped looking for success – she got it.

There seems to be a common theme that aiming for success for its own sake is a mistake. I re-read a very well known book by Viktor Frankl called “Man’s Search for Meaning“. Viktor was a concentration camp inmate who as a Psychiatrist made a number of very telling observations which he wrote about after he was released. His observations and thinking  changed modern psychology and have had a huge impact on many in terms of the choices we make.  The edition of the book I just read had a foreword by the author in which he wrote:

“Don’t aim at success – the more you aim at it and make it a target the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness cannot be pursued it must ensue and it only does so as the unintended side effect of ones dedication to a cause greater than oneself ….. “

I find this fantastic. Its means to me that one should find a cause or a vision greater than one which delivers to you the “stuff” you desire – rather choose one that is above all that but matters to you. Follow that cause or that vision and success will ensue as a by product.

In other words …. “success happens”.

Aidan Higgins

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