Fragile Success

The Most Valuable Version of You

Who’s the poster child for your idea of success? Is it Steve Jobs, Nelson Mandela, Michael Phelps, Oprah Winfrey, or how about Billy Graham? Chances are that you have a mental picture of who you are wanting to become. We all think about succeeding in one way or another. On a micro-level, success is simply accomplishing what we have intended to do, but when we begin to imagine what the culmination of these desired micro-successes would look like, we are forming a powerful silhouette of what we believe could be the most valuable version of our life. Deep inside, this vision of ultimate success motivates us, directs us, and one day might potentially betray us.

From “Drive” to “Drain”

Our idea of success betrays us when it is based on fragile assumptions. What do I mean by this? Fragile assumptions are perceived truths about us and our circumstances that are not guaranteed in our experience of life. For example, most company startups believe that they will succeed in establishing their own business. Many of these entrepreneurs have read the blogs, bought the books, and have drafted plans. These people have committed the majority of their energy, resources, and health to accomplishing their business goals, but unfortunately, 8 out of 10 startups fail. For many, on the day that the founder finally gives up on their dream, success becomes elusive and a sense of failure begins to loom. If this is a critical factor to the ultimate success of their life, then they may never recover from this goal or may sacrifice everything else in their life until they do. The vision for success that once provided the drive is now the drain.

Bad Assumptions

Is every circumstance, personality, health condition, or relationship ripe with the same potential for each person? Does every form of government or economy provide the same stimulus for accomplishing personal goals? Is there a way to guarantee consistent circumstances or support beyond today? No, not within our control. As inspiring as it is to listen to the 20% who succeed at starting their own businesses, it’s important that we recognize the assumptions we are making when we attach our worth to their experiences. We might be setting ourselves up with a fragile view of success. Here are a few questions to help us evaluate how fragile our desired future may be:

  • Am I focusing on who I will become, or what I will accomplish? Regardless of the circumstances, we always have the opportunity to develop character. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. – James 1:4
  • Does my vision reflect an understanding of my unique personality and set of talents? If we are tuned in to our own uniqueness, we will be less likely to blindly adopt someone else’s idea of success. For it was you who created my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise you because I have been remarkably and wondrously made. – Psalm 139:13-14 
  • What good is it if I succeed at something that ultimately doesn’t matter? Have you taken the time to get the answers to life’s greatest questions: What is the meaning of life?, What happens after death, and what is right or wrong? The Bible undeniably points to Jesus as the answer. For what will it benefit someone if he gains the whole world yet loses his life? Or what will anyone give in exchange for his life? -Matthew 16:26

There is nothing more thrilling than having a strong and secure view of success. On the other hand, there is nothing more draining than to have your struggle for worth propped up by an endless list of goals to achieve. Let’s skip the fragile and anticipate a future that won’t betray us.

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