The Success Myth

Craig Harper

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I just watched a short video of a world-renowned personal development guru sharing his thoughts and ideas on success and what we need to do to become successful. And while he didn't define success (specifically), he did infer that it is essentially about bank balances, property portfolios, cars, lifestyles and big houses; the accumulation of wealth. Because that's all he spoke about; how poor he once was and how rich he now is. And how, when I buy his books and DVD's, and subscribe to his on-line newsletter I can learn from him, be like him and become part of his success family.

Give me a bucket. I'd rather hit myself on the head with a bat.

Apparently success is about accumulating things which have significant financial value. And when we've accumulated a lot, we should do our best to accumulate more, because then we will be more successful. And if we have the most stuff amongst our friends and colleagues, then we are the most successful.

Sad that people still teach this in 2007 (close enough). Sadder that people still buy into it.

If you are passionate about self-improvement and personal growth I hope I haven't already offended you, but I am tired of this self-centred, instant gratification school of thought which teaches that success is all about what we can get. And quickly.

Don't get me wrong, I am not some goody-two-shoes (what on earth does that mean?) who is opposed to being commercially and financially successful, in fact as a business owner, it's one of my goals. I respect people who have achieved in business and in their career but I don't confuse assets with success.

They are, in my opinion, (usually) independent of each other.

What I am opposed to, is the notion that overall success should be measured in dollars. And while some of the gurus wouldn't overtly say as much. . . . listen to them, read their stuff; it's what they're all about.

Well, what if success isn't about accumulating but rather, giving away? And what if, in the giving, we become rich beyond belief? I know that for many of you this won't be a foreign concept but in the big wide world of ‘success coaching’ concepts like selflessness, generosity, emotional and spiritual wealth don't get much of a run. It's all about looking after number one. Win at all costs. Go hard or go home.

Winston Churchill said: We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.

Many people teach that success is different things for different people.

When I quiz a group of people at a conference and say “who wants to be successful", every hand goes up in a second. When I then say, “you've got two minutes; write down what success is for you", most of them will sit there for the two minutes. . . . and write nothing or very little.

I believe that defining success is easy and that it is actually the same for everyone.

What does everyone really want?


See, ain't that complex is it?

Happiness = Success.

We might label it different things (peace, contentment, fulfillment, joy, fun) but we're all really talking about the same thing.

We're talking about an internal state. . . not an external thing.

Why then, are we so externally focused?

I believe that, on some level, we all know that it's not about financial wealth but somehow, somewhere, we bought into the lie.

You know you're truly happy when you don't really want anything else.

The tricky bit is finding out what truly makes you happy. Not what the gurus, book or DVD's tell you will make you happy. . . but what your heart (not your head) tells you.

Here's a hint; it probably won't be money or stuff.

A story to finish.

A few years ago I went to Vanuatu for a friend's wedding.

There was a group of about twenty five of us and we all stayed on a remote, tiny island which had no electricity and a population of a few thousand. We stayed in the only ‘resort’ on the island; one-star beach huts, complete with generators, communal showers, palm trees, the most beautiful beaches on earth and a bunch of creepy-crawly things.

In my seven-day stay on the island I connected with some of the most beautiful, happy, well-adjusted, inspiring people I have ever met; anywhere in the world.

These unsophisticated, uneducated people taught me much more than I could ever teach them. Sometimes when I was around them I felt stupid. . . . but mostly I felt privileged. I felt as though I had made my life something much more difficult and complex than it needed to be. These people who earned ten dollars (Australian) per week ($7.50 US), had never even heard of the term ‘Personal Development', didn't know what a psychologist was and played soccer for hours on the beach with a ball made from leaves, never stopped laughing, smiling or having fun.

Every day, all day, they were happy. I befriended one of the workers at the resort. He was twenty four, had never seen television, never heard of Michael Jordan, Michael Jackson, the Pope or Madonna. . . . never been off his tiny island, never seen a bitumen road. . . his favourite foods were chicken, fish and . . . wild dog. One day we went for a walk because he wanted to show me where his parent's house was. As we walked there he held my hand.

I didn't know that (in their culture) when someone is your friend and you are walking together . . . holding hands is normal.

You can imagine how comfortable Mr Personal Development, well adjusted, alpha-male warrior was, walking hand in hand with another man on a tropical island.

Let's just say that one of us had significant issues and it wasn't my new buddy.

So over the course of one of the best weeks of my life, my new buddy (the hand-holding guy with no money, no assets, no stocks, no car, no ego and no five-year plan) taught me all about success; not by what he said but by how he lived his life.

The irony is that, by our society's standards, he has nothing; he is poor. The truth is, he is successful and wealthy beyond measure.

When I left the island he hugged me, told me I was his new white brother and cried. I cried too.

P. S. My friend's name is Mackenzie. . . . and yes I've seen him since.

Craig Harper (B. Ex. Sci. ) is an Australian motivational speaker, qualified exercise scientist, author, columnist, radio presenter, and owner of one of the largest personal training centres in the world.

He can be heard weekly on Australian Radio SEN 1116 and GOLD FM and appears on Australian television on Network Ten's 9AM.

Motivational Speaker - Craig Harper


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