Success is like beauty, it is in the eye of the beholder. Sometimes those eyes are your own and they are frequently the most critical. Most men do have a desire for success, but then how do they define it. Is it making a million dollars? Is it curing cancer? Or is it being able to pay all your bills? Maybe it’s just getting further in life than your parents or you thought you would.
A man who wants success cares about something. He has a goal—something to work towards. There is a purpose to getting up in the morning and a good reason to be tired at night. Having goals, however, creates an opportunity for both satisfaction and disappointment, the latter a reason some don’t set aggressive goals. Not having goals allows one to get a free pass from self-criticism regarding achievement.
If you reach the pinnacle of your dreams, what will you have? Will others be helped by your work? While looking for your personal success, you can miss real success--especially if you are looking in the wrong places. It may be that your greatest success, or potential for success, is right under your nose. There are many remarkably successful people throughout history, most of whom have never been documented by historians. But of those that have, I’ve always looked at Dr. Jonas Salk, who developed a vaccine for polio as the symbol of a man who profoundly left his mark on the world. Millions were saved from the crippling effects of polio thanks to Dr. Salk’s vaccine. His success was this miracle cure, which he refused to patent, allowing it to be used freely. Not once did he seek financial success from his discovery.
Where did Dr. Salk get his desire for service and his ability to contribute? Who gave him the encouragement, support, and resources to “pay it forward”? Dr. Salk’s parents were immigrants who did not have a high school education, but they sacrificed and insisted that their son have an education. How much credit do they get for ending the scourge of polio? Just imagine the pride they must have had for their son!
Now your success does not have to be as dramatic or wide reaching as Dr. Salk’s. But it can be as significant as the successes of Dr. Salk’s father--or Harry Truman’s father, men who raised their sons to be wonderful citizens. Real success is selfless. What you do to pass on or grant success to another is the best success there is. Every father can do this, and it has a multiplier effect! Every father has the potential to support and mentor every son and daughter in a way that gives them a strong start to their own successes.
Two Secrets Regarding Success and Failure
I can think of two ‘secrets’ regarding success/failure:
- Success often comes about by not knowing, in advance, how difficult achieving it is going to be.
- Failure often comes about by assuming success will be more difficult than it really is.
Fathers can help their children by keeping the first secret to themselves, and giving away the second secret. Success as a father may not be the greatest success you’ll ever have. If this is so, maybe you didn’t have children.
Please consider my book for a new or struggling father. It will encourage him and get him to think. "The Power of Dadhood", coming out on April. 28, 2015.