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How To Know When You’ve Finally Arrived

March 25, 2011

I once heard a story about Henry Kissinger falling asleep in the middle of a very important meeting. Everyone noticed, but no one dared say anything because he was such a highly respected diplomat. The moment he came to, upon picking up the few fragments of sentences that were being discussed in mid-conversation, he immediately interrupted the group with some blinding insight.

I try not to fall asleep in meetings, whether I am making the presentation, or receiving one. Because, unlike Henry Kissinger, I am very concerned about what people think of me. I would rather make sure I come across as sharp and capable and prepared and on the ball. I guess I haven’t achieved enough yet in my career that would allow me such unguarded self-possession.

But that story puts things in perspective, mostly by revealing how insecure I must be. Here is a man who was so self-assured as to feel the freedom to doze off in the middle of some high-powered meeting. “What’s the difference?” he’s thinking. “I am smarter than all of these people, and I know what the end result is going to look like anyway. My time is better spent in a snooze.” If only I had such bravado!

How Will You Know When You’ve Finally Arrived?

I decided that Mr. Kissinger was an inspiring role model. If only I could be so well-respected, unquestionably smart and insightful! In fact, his example would be a good benchmark for success. Better yet, why not make it a goal? Yes, this is how I will know when I have finally arrived in my career: I can fall asleep during a meeting without giving a rip, because everyone knows that even in my sleep, I am a valuable team member.

Not that this could actually ever happen in my lifetime. But it did get me thinking about success, and the possibility to nail down a version of what that ultimately might look like for me. What will it take for me to finally calm down and truly believe deep down inside that I’ve made it?

Most of us view our lives as a series of plateaus to climb – when we have accomplished one thing, we start looking for the next. So our idea of “success” is a moving target, and in that case there is no true sense of arrival. On the other hand, scripture tells us to look to God, be content in what we are doing, stop striving (look at the lilies of the field!), and rest in the Lord. Also, remain humble, put others first, and submit to God’s will. Well, that’s all spiritually agreeable, but it doesn’t mean I’m going to stop trying, stop dreaming, stop reaching.

Is There A Spiritual Definition of Business Success?

I started fishing around for a better definition of success (without a sleep reference), one that can integrate my desire for spiritual fulfillment right alongside my ambition and desire for achievement. Here is what I came up with.

My definition of success is this:

Achieving my full potential while fully surrendering to God.

What do you think?

Works for me.

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. March 25, 2011 5:46 am

    Bradley J. – Maybe Kissinger was like tennis great Ivan Lendl, who they say had an almost super human ability to bring his heart rate from extremely high (during points) to extremely low (between points) so as to ‘rest and recover’ for the next point? Over the course of a long, five set match, Lendl would have a tremendous advantage over his competitor because he had more energy when it mattered most. Or maybe he was just bored and needed a nap and everyone noticed because this was before PowerPoint presentations put everyone in the room to sleep? As for my definition of success, I like the famous John Piper prayer: “Lord, let me make a difference for you that is utterly disproportionate to who I am.” Here is the story on that prayer: http://bit.ly/ggrwdL

  2. Amy permalink
    March 25, 2011 6:01 am

    Sounds great. Just one question, how will you know when you finally achieve this success? What does your full potential and surrendering to God look like?

  3. Anna permalink
    March 25, 2011 9:13 am

    I took some days off this last week as well and have been thinking about the same topic. This is how far I have come: —.
    I second Amy’s two questions…

    • March 26, 2011 6:57 am

      Okay, so for Amy and Anna: to answer the question what does that strange combination of achieving potential and surrendering look like? Well, it’s mostly about acceptance with momentum. In other words, I am not ever going to stop attempting to set goals, to accomplish new things, and try to become a better person, professionally and personally. It’s how I am wired, how we all are designed – to create, to grow.

      But then there is acceptance, which is to realize at any moment that I have absolutely no control over anything, and that I am perfectly okay the way I am and able to completely rest in God’s infinite love for me. This allows me to recalibrate my achievement orientation to focus more on serving others instead of myself, to see those same goals and achievements as a way of letting God work through me to help other people and achieving some greater good rather than just soothing my own hair-brained insecurities.

      Does that help?

      • Anna permalink
        March 26, 2011 4:31 pm

        A lot! Thanks.

  4. Andrew permalink
    March 25, 2011 9:51 am

    In my mind, success is can be defined as this: Doing God’s will God’s way.

    That way, Jesus was a success in his first thirty years of life, and Joseph while sitting in prison; Esther as a semi-concubine, etc…this allows success to be more of a definition of faith and process than of actual arrival.

    External determiners always leave us wanting: someone else is always better as defined by some metric (brains, beauty, confidence, money).

    • March 26, 2011 7:00 am

      Yes, it is a process. That’s for sure. I just thought the falling asleep thing was such a glaring mark of self-assurance. Can you imagine? And he was so highly respected that no one would dare question it.

      The thing about “God’s will” is.. well, I don’t think I ever completely know what “God’s will” is. It’s not like he’s writing me a list on my refrigerator every morning. I think it’s more about “God’s way” in how I conduct myself every day, following principles and values laid out in scriptures, which are a bit more obvious in terms of behavior and character guidelines.

  5. March 25, 2011 12:33 pm

    fully surrendering to God “is” achieving one’s full potential.

    success is a reaching a goal.
    reasons are behind the goals.
    secrets and lessons are within the reasons.

    • March 26, 2011 7:03 am

      I like this idea of secrets being wrapped up in success and surrender. Because it is such a mysterious concept. It is like a secret.

      Yes, fully surrendering is achieving one’s full potential. Great point. But we still have to go out and do something each day, don’t we? I think alot of people think of surrender as being in a vegetable state, sitting cross-legged on a mat in lotus position or something. Surrender is active, too. But a different state of consciousness, of spirit.

  6. Bob G permalink
    March 25, 2011 3:47 pm

    Thanks for the reflection Bradley.

    “Like.”

    I’ve been trying to spend a lot of time in Matthew 5 – 7. I’ll ponder your conclusion in light of “you cannot serve both God and money.”

  7. March 26, 2011 9:01 am

    Hmmm….I thought I had pretty much reached the pinnacle of my success in getting to have lunch with the High Calling editors in Pittsburgh. Nowhere to go but downhill from there, right? But seriously. Fully surrendered to God–am trying to imagine what that would look like in my life. The image of Henry Kissinger sleeping is helpful. A life fully surrendered to God, I think, would reflect a sense of peace in knowing that God is doing whatever He’s doing through me and my efforts so that I should be able to become increasingly indifferent to how others view me. It is important, though, as one who identifies herself as a committed follower of Christ, to have some sense of whether or not the things I’m doing as unto the Lord, I’m doing well. And, self-assessment can be difficult. I guess the trick is to welcome feedback and criticism without becoming enslaved by the notion that other people’s opinions define our success.

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