What Really Defines Success? Lessons from a Father’s Legacy
What is your definition of ‘success’? No, not someone else’s - yours. When you stop to think about it, does the answer shout out to you? Does it spark some energy? If not, the question to consider is: what really is MY definition of success?
When you contemplate the end of your life, what do you want your epitaph to say? Seriously. I don’t want to be morose or a downer, but I learned this concept after my dad passed away in 2015.
My Dad, a Bronze Star Veteran or the Air Force Security Service, a simple, blue-collar type of guy living in a white-collar world, loved to dance, the New York Football Giants and Yankees baseball, loved spaghetti and meatballs, birthday cake, painting, The Sopranos, loved his family and friends. He’d give you the shirt off his back to help – and sometimes he got burned for it.
He worked so hard to do his part. After retiring from the service, he started a
small data processing firm in New York City. When I was a child, he would often come home from work in the middle of the night. Since he was building a business, he would often miss vacation time with us; maybe he would come for a couple of days. And he worked and worked at it until it was finally time to retire.
Meanwhile, it was my mom who shot to the top of her chosen profession, going from a humble lower middle-class Jewish upbringing in Brooklyn, to a world-regarded analyst and partner at Goldman Sachs. I watched as she too gave up a whole lot of ‘living life’ to achieve what she did, and yet in many people’s minds – she achieved what most would call SUCCESS. And my dad was her biggest cheerleader.
But on the day of my dad’s funeral service - that was the day that I first observed the TRUE meaning of success in life.
On this gut-wrenchingly sad day, so many people came to pay their regards. So many came to show support for our family and for a man who was so loved – not for what he did, but who he was. Yes of course there were the expected family from around the country, but old military service brothers came, the doormen from the NYC building were represented, old friends from New Jersey, people from his art class, his trainer from the gym, friends I graduated high school with came because they remembered him with such warm regard, friends he had met through my mom’s business flew in to pay respect, his business colleagues and clients from over many years. Such a wide variety of people from different parts of his life came from far and wide, and filled up that room.
And to this day, I still hear from people – whether it’s a doorman in the NYC building, or a friend my dad met one or 2 times, or my mother-in-law… ‘Wow I sure miss your dad. He was such a great guy.’ The final words on his epitaph say it all: ‘You made us all feel loved and important.’
I wish he knew how successful he was. But I see it. He was TRULY SUCCESSFUL in life! Today with my clients, I talk about the value of BEING versus the DOING. Who we are BEING generates more results than what we are DOING.
So, I ask you: what is your definition of success? And who are you BEING to get there?