The best definition of ‘success’ I have heard

Character and Identity

In a past story here on Medium I wrote about my definition of entrepreneurial success. To summarize, my vision of success is simple — doing what you say you are going to do. However, after recently listening to a Tim Ferriss podcast, The Interview Master: Cal Fustian and the Power of Listening, I believe there is a higher level to my answer than I originally realized.

It has been said that your character speaks of who you are in this moment, while your identity speaks of who you are purposed to be. No matter how you define it, changing who you are in this moment is no easy task. When Cal was asked who is the first person that comes to mind when he thinks of the word ‘successful’ one of his answers (starting just shy of 2 hours and 23 minutes into the podcast) was George Foreman.

Cal recounted George’s troubled past — no money, siblings making fun of him for something he would only later realize to be the fact his father was Leroy Moorehead and not J.D. Foreman, dropping out of school, etc. To which Cal said was the foundation of a nature so filled with anger that people were even afraid to approach him for an autograph. Going into fight Muhammad Ali in 1974 there was some fear that Ali would not leave the ring with his life intact due to the viciousness of George’s style and 40–0 record with 37 knockouts. What George could not imagine is that Ali would take advantage of this anger and do his best to block and provoke for nearly the entire fight. He was just saving his energy until George was out of gas. When this finally happened Ali went on the offense and soon defeated the undefeatable.

When Cal spoke with Foreman on the subject it was George himself that said, “The hardest thing you can do in life is to change your character,” and basically, in his early 40s, he came back to boxing, but he was completely different. He was no longer the surly guy, he was a guy who would do ads for hamburgers smiling and laughing. He realized that surliness and that anger is what brought him down against Muhammad Ali. From this change in character he was able to regain the title at the age of 45 against Michael Moorer who was 19 years younger than him. That was an extreme symbol of success because he needed to change who he was to accomplish his goals.

So, yes, I still believe success on the long run can be boiled down to doing what you say you are going to do, but what happens when your character gets in the way of making that happen? All of your future success hinges on the power of you deciding to leave the moment of who you are behind you and move on to who you are purposed to be. Thus, the highest definition of success is reserved for those that are able to make this happen.

For George Foreman anger was holding him back from achieving his purpose. Looking back, as obvious as that might be, I am sure there were a lot of people around him that liked him for the character he was and when he started to smile they probably were — let’s say — not supportive at the very least. Changing your character is a hard enough to do in isolation, however, when the world is watching (no matter how big or small your world happens to be) the thought of it alone is almost impossible.

Look at what George Foreman did at the age of 45 in boxing! If you are reading this it is probably not too late for you to do the same if there is a similar character trait that is holding you back. That is, it is not too late until it is…

Top 10 Deathbed Regrets:
I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life other people expected of me.
I wish I took time to be with my children more when they were growing up.
I wish I had the courage to express my feelings, without the fear of being rejected or unpopular.
I wish I would have stayed in touch with friends and family.
I wish I would have forgiven someone when I had the chance.
I wish I would have told the people I loved the most how important they are to me.
I wish I would have had more confidence and tried more things, instead of being afraid of looking like a fool.
I wish I would have done more to make an impact in this world.
I wish I would have experienced more, instead of settling for a boring life filled with routine, mediocrity and apathy.
I wish I would have pursued my talents and gifts.
— Shannon L. Alder, author and therapist that has 17 years of experience working with hospice patients

The regrets listed above are big ones. If you need to change your character to eliminate any of them then when would now be a good time to make that happen?

(Originally posted on Medium)