Earlier today, as I so often do, I was listening to a podcast while traveling for work. This particular podcast featured a conversation between Rich Roll and Casey Neistat. During this conversation Neistat spat out a definition of success that I had never really heard but that I really liked. Neistat is a guy who most of us would deem successful in the conventional way that society has defined the term for us. He is a film director, producer, designer and entrepreneur. His YouTube channel has over a million subscribers, and he just launched a video sharing app that had 1.1 million video shares within the first 8 days of its release. Not too bad for a 34-year-old high school dropout.
Anyway, Neistat said that successful people are those who spend the least amount of time doing things they hate. I know. It’s really just another way of saying that success should be measured by an individual’s level of happiness but I just love how he worded it.
Sadly, we have been conditioned to equate success with the size of our bank accounts, the locations of our addresses, and the cars in our driveways. I am as guilty of this as anyone. There are obvious problems in measuring success this way. First, most people will have to spend A LOT of time doing things they hate in order to achieve all those nice material things. But is working a job you hate in order to accumulate a bunch of stuff you don’t need going to make you happy? Of course it isn’t. Can you be miserable and be successful at the same time? No way. And even if you could, why would you want that kind of success?
Second, the big problem with material possessions is that the more you have, the more you want. Say you start out at a job making $40,000 a year. You rent an apartment. You make your car payments. Your finances are stressful from time to time but all your basic needs are met. You think to yourself, “if I made $80,000 I would be set!” But you know what would happen if you all of a sudden got your wish? You’d probably move into a nicer apartment, upgrade your vehicle, and blow money on anything else would fit into your new budget. Once you’ve over-extended yourself at that income, you’ll wish for more money. The cycle never ends.
I recently finished Jane Leavy’s biography on Mickey Mantle entitled The Last Boy (I promise I’m going somewhere with this). Anyone who follows sports knows Mickey Mantle. Even if sports isn’t very high on your priority list, you have probably heard his name. The Mick was the legendary center fielder for the New York Yankees through 1950’s and 60’s. Mantle was the American League MVP three times. He played in 12 World Series and won 7 of them. To this day he holds World Series records for most home runs, extra-base hits, walks, and total bases. When he retired, only two other guys had hit more home runs than his 536 (Babe Ruth and Willie Mays). He did all this despite playing his entire career on a blown out knee that was never repaired correctly and later an injured shoulder, both of which caused him tremendous pain.
The Mick is without question one of the greatest baseball players to ever live. He was also totally miserable. During his era, he was one of the most beloved sports stars in the country. He made a lot of money during his playing days and made more money through memorabilia after he left the game. From the outside looking in, Mickey Mantle had everything. He had all the “success” that anyone could want. But on the inside, The Mick was empty. Mantle spent most of his adult life drinking himself to death. He neglected his wife and his four sons. He died in 1995 as the result of years of alcohol abuse.
I think Mantle measured his success strictly by what he achieved in baseball. That worked for a while. It gave him money and fame. He might have even been happy during his playing days. But when his career was over, Mickey spent a lot of his time doing things he hated. He didn’t like doing press or going to card shows to sign autographs. He didn’t like being the main attraction at social events or giving speeches. However, he felt like he had to do these things to continue living the life to which he had grown accustomed.
Most celebrities in today’s spotlight are in the same dilemma. They’re good-looking, rich and famous. They have just about everything the world can offer. But it seems like a lot of them are unhappy. Their lives look glamorous but I bet they spend a lot of time doing things they hate. And if that’s the case, they aren’t successful.
Back to Mickey. Can you guess what he wanted to do while he was on his death bed? You probably can. He wanted to spend time with the family he spent most his life neglecting and his friends. He wanted to be with the people he loved and those that loved him back. Nobody gets to the end of their life and wishes they had bought a certain car, lived in a certain house, or owned certain clothes. So why do we care now?
Get off of the hamster wheel. Make memories. Develop relationships. Keep learning. Discover your passion and devote yourself to it. Find God. Pray.
These are the things you’ll be happy you did when your time here is through. Look back on your life and have no regrets. Then you will have been a success.
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