Success by Andrew Coenen

What is Success?

What does it mean to succeed? I mean, the word means so many different things to different people. For some it means making lots of money, for others it means having a family they love, for others it means continually learning and expanding their minds. Those are all wonderful things, things that can and do define success in many cases.

However, I would like to go deeper. Because sometimes, things don’t go the way we plan. A heck of a lot of the time, actually (cough cough 2020 cough cough). Life throws a lot of curveballs, and I don’t only mean the bad ones, sometimes things are just… different—not better or worse—than we expected. But if we have locked into our heads a singular, boxed in idea of success, those expectations can throw our whole mindsets out of balance and keep us from truly achieving fulfillment or peace.

About a week ago, my older brother was offered a job he had been applying for for quite some time. It’s the first job he’s had that has the potential to support him for the rest of his life, if he wants it to, and we’re all ecstatic for him. He’s finally leaving the dingy, centipede-filled basement room he rents in downtown Minneapolis for the high life and luxury of a halfway decent apartment. By all accounts, he is successful, and as weird as it feels to say as the younger brother, I’m very proud of him.

But in my mind, his success isn’t because of the job he got, rather it’s enabled by it. He’s not successful because he’s going to be making money. He’s successful because he knows he’s set now. He can relax. He can appreciate time with his friends and family, he can play games and pet dogs and write stories and go on adventures. His success is earned from the work he’s putting in, but it is comprised of the moments he’s getting out. There are people who put in that work, grinding away and climbing and pushing themselves, but they don’t stop to enjoy the moments. Those people aren’t successful. And there are other people who have learned how to find joy in the small things, even if their life is tumbling head over heels down a bumpy road to nowhere. Those people are successful.

I received more feedback on my blog last week than any other one I’ve written, and it seems you all loved seeing my dogs as much as I do (all the credit goes to them, they’re the stars). I firmly believe that it is those little joys, like the ones my dogs bring me, that give life meaning, and the truth is that there are a million paths you can take to find them. Who knows which path you’ll take. We’re snowflakes in a blizzard: tiny, fragile specks hurling through life at the whim of forces we can’t hope to understand or control. But each one is different, and when you look close enough, they’re some of the most beautiful things you’ll ever see. Life is made up of the little things. Success is getting the big things out of the way enough for you to see them.

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