94. Success is...


What is it?

If you line 17 people up and start taking answers, you’ll find 13 or 14 different ones. A few of the people will agree, but most of them will share their unique angle. That’s what makes defining success more more akin to stapling jello to the wall than actually drafting a life plan. 

So, let’s define it like this, something which leaves some flex and interpretation for all of us. Something which requires some soul-searching, too. 

Success = living up to your God-given potential in each area of life.

How’s that?

I like that statement— 

  • It’s easy to remember.
  • It acknowledges we can be successful in some areas while struggling to make it work in other areas.
  • It admits the opposite, too. Although we might be failing in some areas that doesn’t mean we’re “losers.” We might still be crushing it in other facets of life. We should celebrate those wins even while working on our deficiencies. 
  • It honors the Creation-potential in each of us, realizing that much of what we achieve is going to depend on the deposit of the Kingdom placed in us by God. And, really, that’s different for each of us.

Now that we have a working definition, let’s talk about achieving that success… 


Second, notice a theme you're going to hear a few times.

Most success is created by doing small things consistently well, over time— not by doing one single big thing once.  

Most people look for some huge disrupter when seeking success. Yet, there are probably a few minor adjustments you can make with what you're doing now to reach your destiny. 

The issues with these “small things” are two-fold:

  1. Doing the right things, and
  2. Doing them consistently— over the long haul

In other words, doing the wrong things won't help. You’ll just be “busy.” There's a big difference between being busy and being productive. Furthermore, even if you do the right actions, if don't do them long enough, you won't reap the result.


  • Somebody who refuses to dig (the action necessary to reach the treasure) won't succeed. They're not doing the right action (this is true, even if they like the idea of attaining the diamonds— because we must differentiate between actions and concepts, like we discussed in chapter 6).
  • Somebody who stops too soon (i.e., the guy on bottom) is in the same boat. He does the work— and is closer than the man on top— yet fails to reap the result, as well. He's in the same boat as someone who never showed up!


Because both time and effort are important. And…

If you’re not willing to endure the struggle, it might indicate this just isn’t your dream. 

Success requires time and it requires effort.  If you do the “right things” for only a short period of time, your chance of success diminishes drastically. If, on other hand, you take  long period of time but don’t do anything… well, success requires both.

Success isn’t just a matter of doing the right things (effort), it’s a matter of doing the right things consistently over the long haul (time). 

Both are important. A little time doing the right things is as ineffective as a lot of time doing the wrong things!


Third, here’s another theme: success is more like following a recipe rather than finding the right lottery ticket.


Follow me on a tangent here and let's keep developing the idea…

Let's say you and I decide to bake a chocolate cake. Most cakes have the same ingredients and cook for about 20 minutes at about 350 degrees. Notice…

  • Same ingredients
  • Same duration of time
  • Same intensity (temperature) 

Very few people— unless they have some amazing tools or other factors which come into play— can pull a legit cake out of the oven in 5 minutes. The recipe includes BOTH the ingredients and the actual time (endurance) + pressure (temperature) required. 

It's actually difficult to shortcut a chocolate cake, isn't it?

Most dreams are just like that cake. Sure, sometimes we find exceptions to the norm, but it's easier to plan around the norms rather than bank on an exception.  Plus, if something amazing happens and your case turns out to be an exception, you’re that much farther ahead!


A lot of people presume that success is like winning the lottery instead of like cooking our cake.  They presume success is based on luck, that it’s a matter of being at the right place at the right time— or some other set of factors outside our control. 

They also presume you either win or you don’t.

And they believe if someone else wins, you can’t. After all, the winning ticket was cashed— and it wasn't yours. 

Success is entirely different. Success is a recipe, not a lottery ticket. 

Let me explain…


First, success is a proven process.  You can look at what others do and you can follow along, getting similar results. In other words, most of the guesswork is taken out of attaining it.

  • Want to lose weight? 

You know how to succeed— even if there are multiple ways to do it. 

  • Want a thriving marriage? 

There’s a recipe of ingredients people with great marriages do AND don’t do…

  • Want obedient, honoring kids? 

Again, proven methods which work are readily available.

You get the idea. Unless you're inventing something new, there are clues you can follow, breadcrumbs that have been left on the trail by others who've gone before you. (Even if you are blazing new territory, you'll find huge hints other explorers have left for you, as well!) Success always leaves clues.

If we look at people who’ve succeeded in the areas in which we want to achieve something, we can take cues from them. In other words, we can evaluate WHAT THEY DID and we can clock HOW MUCH TIME it took them, leading us back to the time + effort = success equation. 

Second, there’s no shortage of success to go around. Think about the last lottery number you heard called. If someone else wins, that means you didn’t. It means you CAN’T, in fact… winning in this scenario is IMPOSSIBLE. 

(Full disclosure: I’ve never played the lottery. This is just an example we can all understand!)

Lotteries are zero-sum events. If I win, it means everyone else loses— including you. If you win, that means I, by default, lose.

Cakes are different. Everyone can bake a cake at the exact same time. Just like everyone can live up to their God-given potential, whatever that is. 

Furthermore, my successful bake doesn’t diminish your success at all. In fact, we might learn something from each other in the process. 

Success is never a zero-sum game. Everyone can… 

  • Experience a great marriage
  • Lose the extra weight
  • Mend the fractured relationships
  • Balance their budget and climb out of debt
  • Win at life

There’s enough goodness to go around. We're not in competition. In fact, success actually gets easier the more people that embrace it, as it shifts the entire environment.

The issue is not “they've succeeded and beat me to it.” We often look at things like that. But success doesn't work that way. There's always enough for everyone.

The real question is “will we invest the time and effort they invested" to be successful?

In other words, we're back (again) to that time + effort = success equation. 



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