So far this summer I have been reading a lot. It’s a perk to being a teacher and getting a few months to just do what you want to do every year. It makes the French look overworked with their mere one month off. In my summer reading, I have been drawn to learning about what makes people who they are. Elon Musk was shaped by his surroundings in South Africa and global experiences, Trevor Noah was shaped by being born a crime, and J.D. Vance was shaped by his hillbilly family from Kentucky. All of these people come from different cultures, backgrounds, countries, etc. and they all found their own way to success. Elon went the tech route, Trevor is a comedian, and J.D is a Yale Law school graduate. Their roads were all different, their successes were all defined differently, and they are all deemed to be successful people.
I think of myself as being successful in what I do. I get to be married to an awesome person I truly admire and love. I have three awesome kids that are getting the opportunity to live their best selves. I have a job I love to go to each day and I have a purpose in changing peoples lives for the better. I get to travel, exercise, play outdoors, and I get lots of time off to spend with my family! But, I can guarantee that my road is different from all the other teacher’s road to success out there. My culture from my home growing up, my sports background, and my natural abilities have taken me on a different path to what I define as being successful as a person. My experiences are also a big part of how I define my success.
My wife and I have been married for 15 years now. I know our path to success even while we were married is different at times. She stayed at home raising our kids for 12 of those 15 years. She went from college into motherhood quickly and at a young age. Most mothers she associated with were 5 to 10 years older then she was. Most women had careers or a life after college that didn’t include kids. But, most of these women didn’t find love and get married in college like we did. We just moved a lot quicker so my wife’s path through motherhood will be quicker, and she gets to have a career and do other things longer on the tail end of things. She took a different path and she is a success in doing things her way.
There is nothing wrong with your path to success. You may have made a bazillion mistakes on your path, and as long as you are learning from those mistakes your journey may have been more fun to tell others about later in life. Learning the hard way is a better story then, “I did everything right and now I’m perfectly successful.”
But, let’s say you are on a path to be unsuccessful. I have noticed from reading this summer that all these people had the ability to step back and see where their path is taking them. Trevor Noah was hanging out with a bad crowd, and he noticed this and changed his path. Stopping, or at least slowing down and reflecting on your direction in life is a trait that successful people do on a regular basis. They can see their goal of what they define as success, and they can see if their decisions are taking them toward the goal or away. If it is away then you can change your path! Find the correct way to get to your goal and achieve them.
There have been times that I thought I wanted something, and then I looked far enough down the road and it took me away from my ultimate goal. I wanted to go to law school after college, but my ultimate goal was to be a great provider for my family and be a well-balanced guy. So when I got accepted into law school, I paused and reflected on what I learned from doing a law internship, I reflected on what life with my new baby and wife would look like while I was in law school, and I reflected on what law school debt would do to us as a family and our future choices. I knew I wanted to be around my family as much as possible and 60-90 hour work weeks would be tough for that to happen. I knew that debt would burden us for many years after law school, and I felt it was postponing our life together going back to school at the time. The debt would cause me to have to work even if work was driving me away from my family. I also saw in my internship a lot of depression, alcoholism, and lawyers asking me repeatedly, “Why don’t you just get away and travel.” or “Are you sure you want to do this kid?” One attorney celebrated paying off his student debt at age 42 by quitting and moving into an RV with his dog to drive around for a year. He was burned out, divorced, and was drinking at his desk most evenings. I changed my path into teaching because I saw this path leading me to the life I had imagined as a balanced family man. It’s hard to imagine my life being this good if I didn’t change paths. It could have been this good or better, but I can’t imagine it.
So, this summer while you vacation, relax on the couch, or just some Sunday on the porch in some quiet solitude, take the time to stop, reflect, and make sure you are on your best path to your picture of success. If you aren’t, then start to make a plan to make your success happen.