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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The Zen of Getting Unstuck

Steve Jobs shared what might be the greatest advice college graduates have ever received when he delivered Stanford’s 2005 commencement address. In it he said, “For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” 

From time to time all of our lives require a bit of course correction. The further we get off course, and the longer we allow problems to exist before addressing them, the harder they become to correct. 

Two years ago, the brilliant Italian businessman Sergio Marchionne delivered a speech that my brother Greg was privileged to attend. Greg took notes that he later shared with me. I was so impressed by Marchionne’s words that I wrote them down too. One thing he said was, “Problems denied and solutions delayed will result in a painful and costly day of reckoning.” 

And Marchionne should know- he turned struggling auto manufacturer Fiat around before going on to lead Chrysler from bankruptcy to profitability. His discipline of addressing problems honestly, quickly and directly has undoubtedly been central to his success. 

Do we have the strength and courage to do this in our own lives? 

In his self-improvement classic The Road Less Traveled, M. Scott Peck shares the insight of an army general: “The single greatest problem in this army, or I guess in any organization, is that most of the executives will sit looking at problems in their units, staring them right in the face, doing nothing, as if these problems will go way if they sit there long enough.” 

Peck continues, “The general wasn’t talking about the mentally weak or abnormal. He was talking about other generals and senior colonels, mature men of proven capability and trained in discipline.” 

In other words, we all do it sometimes. 

What matters, then, is what we do after our problems become undeniable. 

Jennifer Winter shares a few great ideas in her post called How to Get Out Of Bed When You Hate Your JobIt’s worth a read even if you don’t hate your job because we all find ourselves stuck in some area of our lives sometimes. The advice Winter shares can be applied to more than just our careers, and can help us break out of a rut. 

For me, the most powerful parts of Winter’s message include consciously treating yourself well (if you don’t, who will?), admitting and giving preference to your own desires, facing your fears and responsibilities directly, increasing your clarity through list-making and writing, and taking action. 

So if any part of you doesn’t want to do what you’re about to do when you return to work tomorrow, muster your courage and your honesty, look in the mirror and change something.

 

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