Perhaps Now is Your Time: Defining Success & Value
During the 2009 University of Southern California commencement ceremony, the 38th Governor of California and movie actor Arnold Schwarzenegger gave the keynote address. The advice he gave the new graduates was centered around what he called his Six Rules of Success. Those six points were as follows:
- Trust yourself
- Break the rules (not the law, but the rules)
- Don’t be afraid to fail (keep pushing and be willing to take risks)
- Don’t listen to the naysayers
- Work your butt off
- Give something back (to your community, your state, your country)
While I think we can readily see the wisdom in this list, the practical application and the value, what struck me was his emphasis on number one. Trust yourself. How many of us really do this? How many of us did this when we graduated college?
After acquiring a Bachelor’s degree, two Masters degrees, being ordained as a clergy person in the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., and having had what many consider a successful career, I feel in some ways I am still learning this lesson. I know I certainly didn’t grasp it or honor it at the age most of these graduates were hearing it.
Trust yourself. Schwarzenegger’s advice was to “dig deep down” and ask yourself who you want to be. Interestingly he said who, not what. He highlighted that distinction. The important question isn’t “what” we want to be, but “who.” For most of my career I was focused on what I wanted to be and to do, not who I wanted to be.
For me, that is the most valuable point of the six. Because if we can’t answer the question of who we truly, deeply want to be, we’re not very likely to get the others right. Maybe that’s why he put it first, although he later said number 5 is the most important. Of course, they are all important; some more so than others, in varying degrees based on prevailing circumstances. And we can be successful in certain ways without doing these things, just as we can fail miserably at various things while doing most of them.
Schwarzenegger said that these rules are his and they work for him, but we each need to decide for ourselves. He acknowledged that we are all different and that some people just want to kick back and coast through life. That approach is decidedly not for him. He said that he always aspired to greatness, he wanted to be number one in whatever he pursued; he is intense and has a tremendous commitment to his varied goals.
So in a way he also defined a kind of spectrum along which we each might place ourselves. The extremes seem to be either just coasting along and being non-directive, or being as intense as the Terminator and filled with drive. My sense is that most people are somewhere along the center of these two imaginary ends, with the majority much closer to the drifting end that the self-driven end.
The older I get the more I find myself moving further and further toward the self-driven end. I have more passion, more clarity and more energy to develop who I want to become than ever before. Albert Einstein advised, “Try not to become a person of success but rather to become a person of value.”
Clearly success is defined in myriad ways, and I believe any notion of true and lasting success contains our deepest values as well as our highest aspirations. Among his other ambitions and accomplishments Schwarzenegger is a philanthropist and an entrepreneur. I admire those commitments of his very much.
What I know is this: we are born as human beings, we get turned into human doings, and then we need, at some point, to determine who we really, really want to be when we grow up. Hopefully we will determine who we truly want to be, and then trust ourselves to become that person. For a lot of us baby boomers I don’t think this happened at graduation, but rather it is happening, after our successful careers.
Of course there are many different kinds of success, and that is partly what Schwarzenegger’s speech addresses. The six rules carry different values at different stages of our careers, and at different times in our lives. Many of us have deferred our dreams in order to honor other commitments, responsibilities and pressing realities. Perhaps now is your time, to become the person you’ve held back and to do the things you’ve postponed.
Where are you in your journey? Are you digging deep and finding that at this point in your life you are longing to expand who you are, and express who you are eager to become? If so, I celebrate that stirring within you and encourage you to pursue your dreams, no matter your age or current status. Be still, discover your truest, fullest self, and then honor your knowing.
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