Success

When you visualize a successful person, who do you look at? The Wall Street tycoon? The Olympic athlete? The famous actor or actress?

What impresses me about the word success are the many interpretations that allow this word to achieve such a broad meaning. Definitions spring up from a plethora of opinions constructed by unique cultures and environments. Many seem to think it is defined by a level of status, wealth, fame, or comfort.

In my life, on occasion, I am drawn towards these broad definitions, and as I observe much of the media today, success may have the appearance of requiring minimal effort to obtain. “Buy this product and you’ll be a step closer to a happy life”, or “join our organization and you can reach your goals” are just some of the hooks out there vying for our attention.

Success may seem like a short and direct avenue with reward in sight, though once you actually decide to take the path towards accomplishment, the once spacious trail narrows, roots suddenly appear to obstruct the way, and success assumes an evasive nature.

As I’ve learned from my Christian perspective, the definition of success is really quite counter cultural. Success, by most standards is not easy to obtain, and without luck takes substantial effort. To climb the mountain you must train, to get that dream job you need to put in the time and effort to be competitive. To be satisfied in life, many times you need to show humility and defy our self promoting culture.

What defines success to you?

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My buddy Jordan deciding to take the left path on our way back from a camping trip.

 

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Perspective

Perspective

I recently returned from a two-week road trip with my good pal Seth Newby. Near the end of our journey we had the  opportunity to bike past Fisherman’s Wharf and check out the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. This structure is spectacular to behold, reaching a maximum height of nearly 750 feet. Two main supporting cables are each composed of 27,572 intertwining wires that if stretched out to one continuous distance could wrap around the earth… three times. The main towers pose as sentinels that require the submission of each passing freight intending to enter the bay. From a distance this is a quite a spectacle, but when you’re actually on the bridge, vertigo kicks in and you realize how big it really is.

Perspective
Seth looking up at one of the gigantic main pillars of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Being on the bridge gave me a whole new perspective on the bay as well as downtown San Francisco, and as we were cycling across, the two pillars obscured much of the surrounding view. This made me realize that life is really molded by perspective. The closer in proximity you allow something to be in your life, the more of your outlook it influences. As with the Golden Gate Bridge, if you let something or someone become close enough to you, it will essentially begin to “tint” the lens through which you view the world.

Takeaway. What perspective, for better or worse, are the influences in your life bringing you?

Taking Action

Taking Action

 

A little story I think illustrates an important concept:

Many years ago in a distant land there lived a benevolent and wealthy King. He loved his subjects very much and was a fair ruler of his kingdom. Though he had spacious halls lined with gold and silver, his wealth meant little to him, and he gave much of what he had to neighboring empires and the poor. The King remained in peace and enjoyed his rule very much, though soon he would find out that all this was about to change.

You see, no story can be perfect, and as remarkable as this king appeared, he had one weakness. At the very onset of his dominion, he was given a gift to which he owed his power and ability to rule. When he took the throne he was presented with two golden shoes that seemed to capture the very dewdrops of sunlight and radiate them for all to see. Upon slipping the shoes on, the king felt a confidence and leadership that was left unrivaled, and even the mightiest of warriors was humbled in his presence.

So, one morning, much to the king’s dismay, he awoke to find that his precious shoes had been placed too close to the fireplace the night before. The brilliance that they once held, had now faded into singed plainness, and the shoes were no more than any commonly seen in the marketplace outside.

“It cannot be!” cried the king, and he wept in sadness. For the coming days he was quite distraught, and could not speak to anyone, even his closest friends and family. The kingdom quickly began to slip into shadow. Now the king’s advisers and subjects could not let this happen, for all they had seen accomplished was crumbling before their eyes.

It just so happened that two cobblers of reputable status lived within the kingdom. Realizing this, the king’s advisers pleaded with the two men to repair his golden shoes. When both agreed, they decided to give one shoe to each cobbler, hoping this may hasten the repair.

“For the gracious king, I will mend this shoe within two days, and believe me, it will shine even brighter than before,” exclaimed the first, and confidently strutted away with one shoe.

“I will do what I can, and what you request will also be done within two days” said the other, and carried the second shoe away carefully, as if taking a young child in his arms.

The cobblers returned to their homes, thinking hard on how to solve the problem. Soon the sun had chased the moon twice across the sky, and the king’s advisers hurriedly dashed to the cobbler’s shops to obtain the shoes.

Opening the door to the first shop, they found the cobbler fast asleep in his bed. Immediately, they aroused him and asked where the golden shoe was.

“I was just about to repair the shoe, and have drafted a plan that will have it done in five days,” yawned the first cobbler.

“You fool!” they yelled. “How could you say this and not have it done?”

They took the shoe and, shaking the dust from their feet, left the cobbler to return to his sleep.

Hope seemed to fade, and the king was weary, having not eaten nor slept for three days. The advisers rushed to the second cobbler’s house, and were greeted with a spectacular sight. The cobbler, tired from working day and night had not one, but two golden shoes in his hands.

“I did not know what to do right away, but began the repair nonetheless, and realized how to mend the shoes as I worked,” said the second cobbler.

Elated, the advisers returned the shoes to the king, who, upon putting them on, began to jump for joy.

“Where are the two cobblers who did this painstaking task for me?” questioned the king. “I must honor them with a position among my finest noblemen.”

“There is not two, but one man to thank,” said the advisers, and they went away to fetch the second cobbler.

This story is about action. If we say we will do something, we should do it! Complacency is the enemy of success.

Take a Break

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My sister Rachel hanging out in our front yard with our infamous cat, Floof.

Life is stressful. Especially in American culture, I’ve found that our time is filled with a list of things to do and accomplish. Relaxation seems to be either a thing we have to squeeze into our schedules, or somewhat of a silhouette of its true meaning. When we spend too much time trying to seek out relaxation in the form of Netflix, surfing the internet, and picking up the controller, we don’t feel satisfied and refreshed afterwards, and the list pops up again.

My suggestion? Pick up a book. Go outside and take a walk. If it’s dark out, grab a friend and go stargazing. There are so many fun and creative things to do outside of screen time, if you choose to do something out of the ordinary, you’ll feel much better for it.

God controls everything. From the moment we are born to the final breath we take, we have been given the opportunity to make choices to follow his lead, or turn from that path to pursue our own satisfaction.

I had a talk with my roommate this morning about what brings true satisfaction to life. We agreed that the stories we choose to write can be full of easy and comfortable decisions in the moment, but further down the road these choices stack up to a weak foundation of what we’ve become.

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This telephone pole has seen bits and pieces of many stories. Countless staples remind me of all the people that put them there.

Almost all good stories involve conflict. Some obstacle in the hero’s way. Without this conflict, the reader is not drawn into the story, and the protagonist becomes a mere shadow of his or her true character. The same is true with our own lives. Sometimes we must make the hard decision to pursue what is right though it may mean a hit to our reputation or pride. In retrospect we begin to see that these conflicts, “stick it to the man” decisions, add a unique meaning to our story. We grow because of it.

In lieu of finals week and graduation, I encourage you to take a moment and reflect on the story you’ve written, as well as the story you want to write. 

Sometimes you have to laugh

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Ben hiking out to our camping spot. We spent the night on the right butte.

With the intention of evading the onslaught of homework this weekend, my brother and I decided to go camping. A slight breeze sifted through the air as we stepped out of our little 2001 Toyota Corolla and into the Pawnee Grasslands of Northeastern Colorado. As we peered into the grassy landscape we could make out two massive towers of rock looming in the distance, sentinels of some unknown land beyond. Obviously they were begging to be climbed, so Ben and I trekked through the shin high grass to do just that. We almost gave up, but finally managed to find a primitive ladder carved into the tan rock on the far side of one of the buttes.

Unlike the mountainous expanse that usually baffles me when I go hiking above timberline, this view was quite different. Stark grassland stretched as far as the eye could see. The breeze had picked up, but was still somewhat bearable, so we set up our tent on the top of the tower, thinking it would be a perfect view of the stars at night (It was more a great view of the bright moon instead). The sun set. The wind picked up, and before we knew it we were trying to sleep in a tent that acted more like a sail than anything else, moving at will. I woke up in the middle of the night to the thin material separating me from the elements periodically clobbering the back of my head. As much as I tried to shift away from the side of the tent, some other part somehow found a way to batter me again. I remember vividly smiling and laughing to myself in the middle of the night due to my useless effort to get away from the wind. Finally, after God decided he’d had enough fun, I saw a faint light brimming the horizon and soon enough the sun peeked its golden face above the grassy fields.

Thinking of that night brings laughable memories of what could have been a terrible experience. Life is molded by perspective.