I’ve been telling myself for a while, “I should write about success.” It has been forefront in my mind all summer. What is success, really? How do you measure it? Where does failure fit in? God has shed a lot of light on the subject for me, by speaking to me through various people- all of whom had great wisdom to share.
I was privileged to talk with writer and independent film maker, Pete Bauer, recently for a podcast on his blog (Have you listened yet? You can hear our conversation here!) We didn’t discuss the subject of success specifically but Pete shared with me a story that led him to understand that obedience is one of the most important steps to true success. It got me thinking.
I would never have thought to list “obedient” as a trait of successful people but Pete was SO right. If we are not obedient to God’s call in our lives, it doesn’t matter how much money we make, how many books we sell, or how many followers we have on the internet. It means nothing apart from God’s plan for us. We cannot truly be successful people without being willing to listen to Our Lord. And even more, we must be obedient to His call and always willing to accept His divine guidance.
So my first revelation on success is this—Success is completely dependent on God’s plan. It cannot be achieved apart from what He wants for us and calls us to.
A few days after that interview, I attended the IHM home school conference. I had been looking forward to the conference for a long time but unfortunately was only able to attend for a little while. I heard only two of the many talks given. The two talks I heard were good. They were somewhat thought-provoking even. But, neither talk spoke to me on a deep level. Neither one was exactly full of the inspiration and encouragement I was really hoping for.
After the conference ended for the night, I got to talking with an old friend and a brand new one. The fruits of that conversation were much more significant for me than the expert talks I had just heard. My friends spoke of success in parenting and home schooling, but the lessons can be applied to other areas of life as well. The following is a comment I left at SueElvis’ home schooling blog where she had, ironically, touched on many of the same points my face-to-face friends and I had discussed.
“We discussed and reminded each other (and ourselves) that-- Our greatest reason for home schooling is love of our children. Our greatest blessing of home schooling is time with our children. Our greatest lesson of home schooling always boils down to love- love our family, love our neighbor, love the Lord with all we have. And if nothing else goes right in all our years of home schooling- as long as we got the love right- our children will be better off.”
So, my second revelation on success is this—Success is empty and meaningless if it does not come from, and with, a loving heart. Jesus summed up His whole message with this statement: “You should love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength…… You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” Mark 12:30-31. This is how Jesus, Himself, defined success. He teaches us that, love is the mark of a truly successful life.
And lastly, I had the chance to visit with one of my cousins recently. I hadn’t seen him in nearly 12 years and had never had the opportunity to see him as a father. We had a fun day of visiting while his 2 beautiful daughters played and giggled and bonded with my 5 children. He and I got to catch up (along with his wife and his parents and my husband and my parents). And then, we talked about where we are in our lives today.
Growing up, I knew his passion was music and his greatest ambition in life was to be successful as a musician. After being a part of a small Christian band in the 1990’s and then working for many years behind the scenes in the music business, he gave it up to be a third grade teacher in an inner city school and to focus on being a good husband and father.
He shared with me, though, that he feels like he absolutely achieved his goals in music. He toured the country with his band- seeing the world, sharing his music, and meeting new people. He had the chance to work with musicians like Faith Hill, Amy Grant, and others. He still writes songs, plays guitar, and records music on his own and he has found creative ways to incorporate music into teaching. He’s not a well-known name in music. He’s had no hit songs on the radio. His band never hit the big time. But, he knows in his heart that he is successful.
So, my third and last revelation on success is this—Success means being blessed to enjoy the gifts God gives us. It isn’t about gaining the approval of others or the attention of the world. It’s about sharing our talents and finding joy in using them to the best of our abilities.
So, how do you measure success?