The Anatomy of Success

What was the first thing that came to your mind when you read this post title? Did you actively wonder whether you are a success in the world? Perhaps you began at once to measure and compare yourself to others who you believe are successful.

It can be quite a losing game, if you are not careful.

Maybe it would be good to back-up a bit. After all, what really is success? Do we get to choose our own definition, or do we feel obligated to use those others have created?

I’ve struggled with this concept during my life.

In my early years the expectations which defined success seemed to be easy to grasp. During my school years, it was primarily my test scores and grades and where I stacked up to the others in my classes. Sure, there were other measures, like how skilled you were in sports or music or extracurricular activities.

As time went on there was more friction involved and success became more difficult to achieve. Folks wanted to know what college you got into, what your major was, what your job prospects were, did you have a girlfriend, was it serious?

The focus seemed to be on bigger and better regardless of whether you could classify your actual anticipated outcomes.

That’s part of the problem with success. It slips away as soon as you start to accomplish it. It moves a little further from your grasp and keeps you reaching.

You think to yourself, I’m almost there and then another step appears, another task to check off.

If you are fortunate enough, you move into the business world and search for a job you hope will offer you a decent income, growth potential and a good retirement. You might get married and have children, a house, a car and go on nice vacations.

For some, these are the measures of success that matter most, and by and large, they are the ones society treats with respect.

I wanted all of these, and I am fortunate because they all came into my life. I am deeply grateful for this, for each one of these.

But do they define my success in the world? Can they? Am I not more than these?

What about our other dreams? The ones that live deep inside of us? The ones no one else can see? What about the success of these?

I care about these too.

Do you have some dreams that you want to live outside of yourself? Dreams that you want to shine?

If you do, I encourage you to breathe life into them. I also encourage you to relax all of your ideas about success.

Maybe, if you need to, write down what success would look like if you accomplished them, but then purposely set the list aside. Put it in a safe place and forget about it.

You see, dreams are different. They came with you when you arrived here on earth. They live in you but want to live outside of you. That is their great measure of success. They blossom and bear fruit and share themselves with others, perhaps far beyond your wildest imagination.

This post comes from inside of me in some previously hidden place that I wasn’t aware of until right now. It’s the same place my first book came from when it was born.

I’ve come to realize that I am a channel, a way for my inner dreams to reach the outside world. And I’ve come to realize that I profit by shifting my definition and measures of success. I try to release what the world believes and embrace what feels true to me.

When my dreams take flight, I soar with them, and they are my best version of success.

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Milestones

The first time you experience something in life is usually very special. It carries with it a unique energy which can endure for years, and in some cases, an entire lifetime.

Some call these, ‘milestones’, because they are actions or events that mark a significant change or stage of development.

Many come to my mind and perhaps they do for you as well. No doubt there would be quite a range if we compared lists.

I don’t remember a lot of my ‘firsts’. First tooth, first time I ate real food, first baby steps. Maybe my parents recall, but all I have of those memories is what others have told me. Funny, how stories you are told become your ‘truth’. I wonder how much of my life has been shaped by what others have told me about myself?

As I grew older I remember being able to do things on my own. My first trip out of the house by myself. No one holding my hand or telling me where to go or what to do. I’m pretty sure I kept my house within view, but how precious to be unattached and free to roam the neighborhood.

I remember my first bike. Freedom.

I remember my first day of school. Containment.

I remember my first kiss. Surprisingly in Kindergarten, from the little blonde girl who sat next to me.

I remember lots of firsts. One of them may strike you as strange. I was a kind of skinny kid, so I remember the first day I weighed 60 pounds. I thought that was a very big deal.

I also remember my first plane ride, first piece of my mom’s famous apple pie, first day of college, first date with my wife, first book I’d written, first death of someone close to me. The lasting effect of this still lingers somewhere in the background of my life.

I remember the birth of our first child, a gorgeous little girl, and being the first person to give her a bath and hold her. I remember the birth of our son, a first when you consider he was our first boy, and how wonderful it felt to hold him in my arms.

Each of these firsts mark the beginning of new and unique experiences for me. There are other important events that I want to commemorate too. This post is actually one of them because it represents my 100th post. This feels like an important milestone to me.

At the beginning of this website posting adventure, I would have found it very difficult to believe that I would be capable of creating enough topics and writing full posts about them to reach this number. Another milestone is coming up October 4, 2021. It will be the one year anniversary of generating two posts per week and sharing them with you. I love doing this and challenging myself to grow through writing and sharing.

Part of the reason I wanted to write about milestones is because I sense you are capable of far more than you may think is possible. I say this because I’ve so often seen it be true with folks I know.

So, I wonder, do you have a dream you would like to become real? Does it seem out of reach to you at this present moment?

What about all of your firsts and the milestones of your life, can you allow yourself to be convinced that you have the power to make all of your dreams come true?

I would like to encourage this belief.

You may think that you need more money or more time or some expert help with your dream. If you do, perhaps you will consider asking for help. The help you need might be right there in front of you, waiting to be asked. I know that without my dear friend, Cheri, none of my books would be available to the world, but with her help, they all exist on Amazon in print and as ebooks.

You may think you don’t possess the talent or the skills or the drive to accomplish your dreams. I want to share with you that this is not the truth. Everything is possible. It may take some constant nourishing to nudge your dream into existence. It may require gradual baby steps. And your dream may require several starts and stops, but if you can conceive it and find ways to believe in it and take some action steps, you CAN make it happen.

I encourage you to reach out and create your milestone dreams.

Broken Hearts

A broken heart can seem like the end of the world. But, if you give yourself a chance, it can also be the beginning of a new world.

Sometimes we don’t feel we have the ability to defend ourselves from a broken heart. Things just happen to us. They come and overwhelm us, sometimes making it hard to breathe. And it can seem too challenging to believe there is any way to reassemble our lives and reclaim our heart.

I have a story to tell you about this.

My sister, Alison, and I like to try out various art classes. We decided it would be fun to do some stained-glass work, so signed up and when the time came, showed up at the studio. As is often the case, I was the only man present. I’ve grown accustomed to this and the mothering I usually receive from the women taking the class.

There were seven or eight of us present. The instructor was very pleasant and helpful and guided us through the process and various techniques we would be using. When she was done with her introductory comments, she asked us to wander around and choose the glass pieces that appealed to us.

It was a lot of fun seeing all the various sizes, colors, and textures of the glass pieces. I gathered what I thought would be enough to complete my project and sat down next to my sister.

At first, I began randomly placing pieces in my frame. I really didn’t have any preconceived idea how my project would turn out. I was just ‘winging it’. At some point I realized I didn’t like how it looked, so I tipped out all the pieces onto the table.

There were a host of shrieks and everyone in the class turned toward me. They simply could not believe I’d done that and were upset on my behalf. Some thought it must have been an accident. Others were convinced I was upset or crazy. Once they knew it was an intentional act on my part, they all wanted to know WHY?

I told them I’d changed my mind. I looked at the assembled stained-glass pieces and I didn’t like what I saw. I told them I needed to start over and that it would be okay. They didn’t seem at all reassured and went back to their own projects, shaking their heads.

I began again. This time though the pieces fell easily into place. I noticed a surprising calmness inside of me. I’d followed my own inner guidance and as I looked down, an incredible thing happened. A beautiful image appeared. It was Mary, the mother of Jesus, dressed in a blue swirling shroud. I looked more carefully and noticed she was holding a broken heart in her hands. I knew she was mending it. I sat there in complete awe.

Of all the artwork I have created, it is by far my most favorite.

It speaks to me. I hear gently words she shared about how to mend a broken heart.

She told me that it is only when we choose to feel what we are feeling that we can begin. We know it’s going to be painful and yet, I feel there is a promise in this for us, that once we allow the pain in and recognize its presence, it becomes ready to leave us. We can let it go, making space for something new to take its place. And we can start over. We can be patient and watchful, looking for a new life to emerge. We can open our hearts, so we can experience new dreams. And, although it seems impossible to us, we can be grateful. Grateful that life does not end with a broken heart. If we allow it, our life can begin again. Our hearts can be mended.

I think about this every time I look at my beautiful stained-glass artwork hanging in my office window. Sometimes first thing in the morning the rising sun lights it up and I sense the truth that no heart is ever beyond mending.

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Hidden Prizes

Depending on how old you are, you may remember when several cereal companies had prizes hidden somewhere inside their cereal boxes. My sister, Alison, and I loved searching for them when we were kids. We’d have to convince our mother that we really liked the cereal and promise to eat it to get her to buy it.

As soon as we got it home we’d rummage through the cupboards to locate the largest mixing bowl and set it on the counter. Then, we’d open the box and pull the whole bag of cereal out, followed by one of us reaching into a drawer, grabbing the kitchen scissors and cutting a slit across the top of the bag. Once done, we’d dump the entire contents into the bowl and fish through the cereal until we found the prize. As you can imagine, especially if you have two or more children, the arguing then commenced.

It’s funny but I don’t recall it mattering whether either one of us actually wanted the prize. It was more about the hunt.

When our Mom got wise to our cereal strategy she came up with a new rule. We had to eat our way to the prize. This required an enormous amount of patience, something kids are not known for. The struggle for us became deciding whether delaying our gratification was worth the prize.

Does this sound at all familiar to you? Depending on the circumstances, this is still a huge issue for most people. The whole idea of delayed gratification, when all you really want is the prize at the end of the rainbow.

We discovered that our friends did the same kind of prize hunting that we did.

Maybe it started with the very first box of cereal to contain a hidden prize, which was Kellogg’s Corn Flakes in 1909. According to some industry experts the prize was, The Funny Jungleland Moving Picture Book. The cereal cost $.10 at the time and the prize is now worth $60. Not a bad investment really.

Of course, prizes are used to sell all sorts of things. Crackerjacks made a name for themselves focusing, not only on their caramel popcorn and peanut product, but the prize inside.

One of the current versions of hidden prizes is also highly successful. Think…the Happy Meal at your local McDonalds, although the prize is pretty easy to find. I guess they’ve figured out a way to speed up the gratification process.

It seems to me that life can be the same way. We know, or at least highly suspect, that there are prizes hidden somewhere for us to find in life. Others tell us about them. They call them high school diplomas, college degrees, jobs, cars, houses. Although they seem to be in plain sight, how you get them isn’t always.

And they often require patience. A lot of patience. And perhaps it’s true that we adults aren’t any better than our children in waiting for some things. We want our prizes and sense we need them in order to feel fulfilled, successful and happy.

But I wonder, are there other things to consider? Could our life be more about the adventure than the destination or the ‘prize’?

Could the hidden prizes really be more about the friends we make along the way, the sunsets we see, the beautiful music of the wind through the trees? Could it be the illness or disease that taught us what is truly important in our lives?

Or, could it be the love that comes to us or that flows from us into the world? Could it be those we share our dreams with and our lives with?

Prizes come in all shapes and sizes. I hope you find all those you are looking for.

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I See You

For those familiar with my book series, Little Buddha, you may remember this as the starting line of a saying expressed at the end of the first book. It is spoken by 18-year-old Michael, while addressing one of the main characters, Sam. Michael belongs to a native American tribe in the western part of the United States and is visiting his cousin, Claire, another of the main characters. He’s had a very important conversation with Sam and is about to leave to return home. But, before he goes, he wants to present his farewell to Sam. So, he looks directly into Sam’s eyes and says, “I see you.”

Sam immediately understands Michael is not talking about seeing Sam’s surface, but is saying he sees who Sam is.

Sam responds, that although it may sound strange, he ‘feels seen’. He feels acknowledged in a way he’s never felt before, especially not after just having met someone.

Sam recognizes that he’s usually so preoccupied that he doesn’t even look into another’s eyes, perhaps he thinks because he’s afraid to see or be seen.

What a beautiful thing it is to be seen. To feel that another has looked into you and found something of worth and value. To be held in another’s gaze with a sense of love shining through and coming in to you.

There is a part of Sam that is transformed by this simple exchange.

There are four other parts to Michael’s farewell.

He says to Sam, “I believe in your dreams”. Sam knows that Michael means this. He can tell the difference between the power in Michael’s serene stare and what others have told him in his life that lacked any form of truth.

Michael continued by saying, “Even the ones you don’t yet see.” That felt especially significant to Sam because he has just started on his spiritual journey and feels he knows so little about what direction to travel. To have someone say, that not only did they believe in his dreams, but all the ones to come as well. What a wonderful sense of assurance Michael has provided.

“You mean something to me,” Michael said next. Sam had just met Michael, but he knew without any doubt that he meant this. It was overwhelming.

And finally, Michael faced Sam and said, “You will be forever in my heart.” Michael placed the palms of his hands together and bowed to Sam. What an enormous gift Sam felt that he’d received. To be seen, believed in and cherished. It inspired Sam to keep this farewell close to his heart and repeat it often with those he knew and came to know.

It turns out that I offered an eleven-week book study for each of the three current Little Buddha books. It has been one of the most treasured events in my life. To be able to share with a beautiful group all of the lessons and insights that Sam experiences is so rich and rewarding. When our session is over, we gather in a circle and repeat these five sayings to each other. What a blessing it is to see and be seen in this way.

Please accept this as my gift, if it feels like something you would like to have in your life. Find others who may also want to see and be seen and share it with them. And if you are close enough to Albany, New York, come and share your life with us at the next book study.

Special Note:

For your reference, you can find this passage in Little Buddha Book One, chapter 9, pages 139-141. All of the Little Buddha books are described on this website under the Books page and are available on Amazon in print and ebooks.

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