Friday, November 28, 2014

A Man's Success

True or False?

A man’s success is determined by his net worth.
A man’s success is measured by how well he provides for his family materially.
A man’s success is equated with how much power and influence he wields in the world.
A man’s success is based on how much he produces.
A man’s success depends on how smart, formally educated and clever he is.

How many of these did you answer true? How many false?
Beyond arguments of right and wrong for any of these statements, which statements have had the most impact in your life? Which ones most influenced your decisions about how you’ve spent or are spending your lifetime?

I believe that our ideas of what constitutes success literally become the blueprint for how we make our life decisions and lead our lives. The blueprint formed by the statements above is one that becomes programmed early in a boy’s life and for most men becomes the very basis of their lives. I know these statements have had an impact on how I view myself and other men.

Is there really any other way to look at what makes for success in a man’s life?

In the film, Bucket List, with death knocking at their doors, two older guys conspire to do what they had not yet done, the list mostly consisting of physical feats and things, stuff they may have put off while busy following societal scripts for success and being responsible adults.

In contrast, a palliative care nurse in Australia discovered a different kind of bucket list when she counseled dying patients in their last 12 weeks on earth. There was no mention of more sex or skydiving. Instead she asked about and heard common regrets. Among the top regrets for men was, “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.”

Here are the top five regrets in a nutshell.

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
"This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.”
2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.
"This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence."
3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
"Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result."
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
"Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying."
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
"This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again."

If this retrospective laser clarity can appear at the end of a man’s life, why not sooner, why wait until it’s too late to realize real fulfillment? Why not define success for yourself now and live that at whatever age you are?

The most profoundly simple and powerful process I know for that is The Passion Test. It’s given me deep confirmation of what is most important and what brings me the most happiness in my life. It then gives me a baseline from which to begin living that way from where I am, one step at a time. It has given me and tens of thousands of others a way to define success on their own terms in the face of old blueprints, old scripts of what others have told them about success and how their worth is measured.

The question is: Are you ready to trade the “comfort of familiarity”, old stories, patterns and habits referred to by palliative care nurse Bronnie Ware for a life filled with even more happiness and success (on your terms) than you may have imagined?
I welcome you to join me for an hour of that self-discovery. I have my wife and business partner Karin Lubin take me through the process at the end of each year and beginning of the next. And I do the same for her. Having someone ask you questions so you can listen to your own heart’s answers is profound.
And finally this from the new book by 88 year old pop and jazz singer Tony Bennett, Life Is A Gift: The Zen of Tony Bennett
"Shed the idea of competition, and of being the best. Instead, desire to improve only by being yourself."
"If you follow your passion, you'll never work a day in your life."
Bronnie Ware recorded her patient’s dying epiphanies in a blog called Inspiration and Chai, which gathered so much attention that she put her observations into a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.
The Passion Test: The Effortless Path to Discovering Your Life Purpose by Janet Bray Attwood and Chris Attwood   (a NY Times best-seller that has stayed at the top of Amazon lists for years)
NEW! Your Hidden Riches: Unleashing the Power of Ritual to Create a Life of Meaning and Purpose by Janet Bray Attwood and Chris Attwood with Sylva Dvorak, PH.D  Recently released and already a NY Times best-seller Your Hidden Riches reaffirms the value of the principles and process of The Passion Test inside a treasure trove of rituals for making your ideal life come true one ritual at a time.


  1. I think very differently now at the age of 73 than I did even a few years ago; questions about success, accomplishments, bucket lists, imagined futures, reviewing and summing up the so far, and thinking about what’s next just isn’t as interesting as it once were. Still, I don’t think age or even running out of a future to invest in or mine is what radically changed my mind about my sense of what epistemology for busy people looks like, the essential facts of one’s life and what can be gained from or even learned about them.
    No, after a busy life of doing worthwhile things, when my health began to fail and my life’s work was torn out by the roots, the school was closed, I decided to try a different path, to live a life of quiet reflection. I rented a small house sitting on top of a fish pond that feeds the surrounding rice paddies of a small farm in north eastern Thailand. When the electricity cut out, which happened frequently, it felt to me like, for all practical purposes, that time had been turned back 5,000 years. We made our own charcoal on the farm and lived close to the earth.
    In the early mornings I wrote about my history, which became a meditation on time, its passing--how protein and how so much of it was unlived, discarded and left behind: the rush of it all. As the quality of attention improved or as I became more mindful of specific moments that I could arrange and string together in my own mind, and perhaps upgrade to the status of events, I found a new-to-me truth: we are not our thoughts. In fact, wherever they come from, invited or not, they not only are not us: we don’t even have to believe them.
    This was a very liberating moment for me, finding this truth hiding in plain sight. Realizing that all we have for sure is the fleeting experiences of right now, and that one can actually have more of or a deeper experience of right now, that all we are is found or not found in the flow of our own moment-to-moment personal experience can indeed be transformational. It really does cut out and limit what’s meaningful. I’m reminded of Henry David Thoreau’s declaration upon setting off on his remarkable journey:
    I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.
    Well sure, this is the hero with 10,000 faces, but I’m just saying: don’t forget where life actually happens if you really want to be along for the journey.

  2. From Glenn in Portland

    This subject rings a bell with me on many levels. Robert's note on our thoughts and our choice to accept or acknowledge them or not (and your note on thoughts as blue prints for our lives) rings especially relevant to me.

    The commentary I would like to make regarding "True Success" is based on my personal practice that has evolved during the last three decades.

    That is first Be Present in life. The fleeting now is life itself. I even have ordered printed bumper stickers proclaiming "Be Present" (those seem to be stolen everywhere I place them - go figure). We are all exposed to distractions coming at us like x-rays from everywhere that can swipe the present moment into an abstracted moment. Smart phones - worst offenders!

    Second for me is Work/Life Balance. When our Earthly Experience comes near conclusion we do not typically say "Gee, wish I had spent more time at the office." Even being engaged in a rewarding creative career I have (mostly) prioritized life experience over work. Now in my later career this axiom is more important than ever. Enjoy the fruits of your labor, do with less material stuff and venture out for maximum experience.


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