Success: Is It Worth It? (Part 1)

“Seek not to follow in the footsteps of men of old; seek what they sought.” -Matsuo Basho

For years I’ve had a running debate with myself as to whether or not my dad’s success was worth the price he paid for it. The way I see it, he paid with his life to build a highly successful group of companies. My dad died at 64 years old— he didn’t even make it to “senior citizen” status. Our family paid a hefty price too.

When he died I experienced a strange multitude of emotions. I was glad that his long and painful struggle with a number of illnesses was finally over. I was upset that he could have prevented many of those illnesses by doing a few small and simple things differently— things like eating breakfast, getting more sleep, exercising regularly and visiting the doctor for routine checkups.

I was grateful that, despite his shortcomings, he’d lived his life honorably and in a way that we, his family, can be forever proud of. I remember feeling like a sort of cap had been put on his life— that the reputation he’d earned through his fairness, honesty, authenticity, loyalty, generosity and hard work could never be reversed or undone.

I was exasperated at the thought of ever measuring up to him or his accomplishments. I was sad that I would never have the close and loving relationship with him that I had missed out on as a child. I was angry at not having had that relationship and that it was now impossible. I was upset that he hadn’t taken better care of himself.

I was appreciative of his incredible vision, foresight and initiative to prepare my mom, my siblings and me, and the leaders of our company to carry on the good work that he started. And it has paid off— in the five years since he has been gone, our family business has experienced unprecedented growth and profitability. 

The last five years have given me a lot to think about, and many new perspectives.  

(To be continued…)

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How I Reduced My Environmental Footprint and Increased My Happiness

Last year I made a New Year’s resolution to avoid drinking from a single-service can, cup or bottle. I made an exception for a few dozen shakes, a handful of sundaes and a Slurpee, and I’m proud to say that I kept my resolution. I have renewed it for 2014.

I made the resolution primarily to reduce the waste I contribute to landfills, but also because I love to challenge myself in new and unusual ways, and because I wanted to see how I’d have to change my life to do it.

I’ve made honoring this resolution as easy as possible by giving up soda, energy drinks and alcohol. Last year I lost ten pounds without doing anything else differently.

Some days I miss drinking caffeine, but I’m sleeping well and physically and mentally I’ve never felt more clear.

When I long for carbonation, I’ll drink a big bottle of Pellegrino or Perrier and ignore the fact that drinking sparkling water is a bit hoity-toity. I really like it with lime.

I bought an opaque 32-ounce Nalgene bottle with an orange lid and I carry it with me everywhere. It’s inelegant, and it’s too big for the cup holders in pretty much every vehicle but a Ford F150. I’ve tried smaller bottles, but I have to fill them throughout the day more often than I like.

Carrying this bottle can seem a bit strange when I go to meetings where everyone’s wearing suits, but fortunately that’s not too often. On those occasions my bottle sometimes becomes a topic of small talk, and when it does I’m glad to talk about something other than the weather or how far someone traveled to attend that meeting.

Sometimes I forget to take my bottle when I leave home. I keep a plastic cup at work for this reason. If I’m in public I either use a drinking fountain (how had I never noticed that they are often located near the restrooms?), or I simply let my thirst teach me that I should develop a better memory.

I’m grateful that more airports, convention centers and public places are installing drinking fountains that double as bottle-filling stations. Someday, as a society we’ll look back and marvel at the impact bottled water had on our environment and the fact that we ignored it.

Although I prefer cold water, I’ve adjusted to drinking it at room-temperature. When I find myself wishing for ice, I remember that more than 2 billion people on this planet are without a regular source of clean drinking water.

And I remind myself that we don’t inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.

Then that water tastes pretty good.

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Does Your Life Have a Unique and Specific Purpose?

I have this theory that the most powerful, accomplished and happiest people are those that have the greatest clarity. Clarity about who they are, what they want, and what they believe. Clarity about what’s important to them and the reasons behind the things they do. Clarity about the purpose of their lives.   

For the first 35 years of my life, I didn’t believe that life had meaning. Unsurprisingly, I spent a good portion of those years in a pretty dark place. For a long time I didn’t understand my own emotions of loneliness and despair as signals that something in my life needed to change- and even once I grasped this, it took a while longer for me to understand that for something in my life to change, I had to be the one to change it. 

The pain of emptiness spurred me to search for meaning. In a conversation with a Rabbi, I came to believe that I have a unique and specific life purpose- that each of us does. I also came to believe that our purpose always involves serving others, and that our degree of happiness is in direct proportion to our ability to express our purpose. 

But I still didn’t have any idea what my purpose was, or even how to find it. I thought of words I’d heard attributed to Buddha, “Your work is to discover your work, and then with all your heart give yourself to it.” 

And I thought about George Bernard Shaw’s words, “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” 

Which left me to wonder, if our lives do have purpose, do we discover it or do we create it?

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One Word: Resolution

Making a New Year’s resolution is a great way to push yourself to grow.

Many people don’t make New Year’s resolutions. And those who do often don’t keep them. Yesterday I read that 92% of resolutions are broken, many of which go by the wayside in the first week of a new year. Think about that- ONLY 8% of resolutions get kept!

Another article jokingly (or wisely) suggested that the best way to avoid breaking New Year’s resolutions is to not make them in the first place. But that’s not an approach for achievers, now is it?

I was in Barnes and Noble this week (enjoying a brick-and-mortar bookstore while it still exists) and I came across a very thought provoking book: One Word That Will Change Your Life.

The book encourages its readers to choose a single word to guide them throughout the year. The idea is that the simplicity of choosing one word makes it a catalyst for life-change.

So, rather than- or in addition to- making the sort of New Year’s resolutions that are so often and easily abandoned, what if you chose a single word to guide you in 2014? What could that do for your life and your career? And what would that word be?

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