What is “success”?
It’s February 1st. For a the past 2-3 years, on the first of every month, I listen to the same video recording of Ernest Nightingale‘s “The Strangest Secret”. It’s a simple message really, and the practicality of it makes it almost elusive in it’s execution. It’s unapologetic and it seems he could care less if you believe what he is saying or not. He proceeds to give quote after quote, scenario after scenario of examples of the process he is describing actually working, which at the end, you know to be true. But still, we don’t execute (ideas are shit, ya know).
Ernest starts the recording by telling us that he would like to discuss the strangest secret in the world. Right off the bat he hits the listener in the head with a response from Albert Schweitzer to the question “what’s wrong with with men today?”. Schweitzer paused for a moment and replied “men simply don’t think”. We seem to be happier with the winds of destiny rather than solving the puzzle.
Next are statistics describing that out of every 100 men, by the time they are 65 years of age, only 1 will be rich. Four will be financially stable (retirement, insurance, etc.). Five are still going to be working (WTF?!) and 54 will be BROKE! Given the same starting point, why is it that so few men (or women) are succeeding in a society with the enormous opportunities that we have in front of us? And with the internet, the playing field is even more level than it has ever been so don’t whine about not having a rich family or a proper education. (note, we can argue all day about socioeconomic class, gender, race, etc., but that’s not the point).
I’m in the middle of a Joe Rogan podcast with Henry Rollins as a guest and they talk a little bit about David Lee Roth (“Dave”). Dave often returns to his home town of Pasadena to visit and sometimes hangs out with old high school buddies. Every once in a while, one of them will say crap like “oh yeah, it must be easy for you, you’re David Lee Roth” to which Dave replies “You know what? On graduation day in high school, we all were on the same starting blocks. You chose the bank job. That’s a sure thing. You’re gonna die in that cubicle. I chose to sail the seas of consequence“. Geez Dave.
Dave’s life falls squarely in line with the strangest secret. As Ernest points out, using a deep cutting quote from Rollo May’s book Man’s Search for Himself, “the opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, it’s conformity.” Conformity is a result of feeling like we are a victim. Things happen “to” us instead of “for” us. I’m guilty.
In Dave’s choosing to “sail the seas of consequence”, he unwittingly stumbled upon the strangest secret: “We become what we think about”. In Ernest’s talk he paints a detailed story of huge cargo vessel in a harbor without a captain or crew, ready to leave for its destination. How can this behemoth get out of the harbor without a captain or charts? Obviously, it can’t. Yet we expect to be swept by fate to a goal that lies somewhere in the future. Somewhere over there. That’s a lot of what ifs. Inevitably we come to the conclusion… no goal, no destiny.
The definition of success in this narrative is mathematically gorgeous: “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal”. A goal without a plan is a wish. Simple and true. Uncomfortably true.
Ask and it shall be given to you, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you. Forever one that asketh, receiveth, and he that seeketh, findeth and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.