My most recent claim for "success" would be completing The Death Race a few weeks ago in Vermont. Billed as one of the hardest races in the world, it lived up to its reputation. After 45 hours of horrendous conditions and mind-bogglingly difficult work, I was one of only 35 finishers out of 155 who started and 230 who had registered. In declaring this venture a success, it boils down to "I set a goal. I worked hard towards it. I never gave up. I completed it."
Seems simple, and it is tempting to revel in that "successfulness", but therein lies a bit of a trap. If I hold that same standard to my life as a whole I quickly find that I am in a bit of trouble.
There are a whole bunch of things that I have started but bailed out on long before completion. In fact, I would wager that they far outweigh the "saw it through" successes in my life. Further, in looking at that, I cannot think of even one that was because I was actually unable to do it ... more often than not it has been more of an attention span issue. It is a long, long list of projects that I have started then abandoned when something else suddenly seemed more interesting.
Of course I am oversimplfying somewhat, and not every circumstance fits neatly into these categories. Often, other factors come to bear that affect my decisions. A good example is my run at federal politics. I started that endeavour in good faith and, after almost a full year of "going to the polls anytime" campaigning, had to make a tough decision with no election on the horizon and virtually no control over the situation.
Still, I have done more than my share of zigging and zagging. In my adult life, I have worked as a; windsurfing instructor, waiter, bartender, international youth exchange program co-ordinator, tree-planter, bookstore clerk, timeshare salesperson, barista, marketing manager, deliveryman, environmental consultant, car salesman, climbing rope salesman, realtor, property manager, landlord, candidate for federal office, display advertising sales, divorce mediator, funeral home driver ... and finally, payment processing sales, personal coach, hypnotherapist, personal trainer, motivational speaker.
Interestingly, I don't really have any regrets. Every one of those roles has taught me something about myself and served me well at the time, and I was always content moving on when the time came to do so. While it would be hard to demonstrate a strategic straight-line evolution, I do feel that my life has been an ongoing process of growth and discovery.
There are also a few things that are in neither the completed nor abandoned columns ... but are in the "not yet" category. These include, among others, living on a sailboat and the adventure travel component of Alter Ego Life Adventure Co. Both were ideas that I committed to and announced, but eventually had to defer while focusing on more pressing priorities. So, while the timelines have shifted, the goals remain the same. Fortunately I am 43 going on 25, so I feel that I have lots of opportunity yet to achieve both of these intentions and lots more.
My Death Race experience served to demonstrate that I truly CAN complete anything. That doesn't mean that I always WILL though. I am quite happy to start lots, finish what proves important to me, and learn from and let go of the rest.
So, am I a success or a failure? I am both, and neither, and much more. I am a life adventurer who is willingly deep in the current and loving the ride.
One of my all-time VERY favourite songs is "Barbecue" by ALO (Animal Liberation Orchestra). It is about taking stock of your life every so often, letting go of the past and looking to the future - understanding that goals and dreams are there to serve you, not to punish you. Listen and reflect and enjoy!
The road is long and winding like a good mystery unfolding
It twists and turns in colorful subplots and sunburns and fake out endings
And sometimes my patience in the whole process starts bending
As I attempt to unravel the web by traversing and rehearsing and perversing along the doubt-laden extension chord thread of my life
And in this life we're free to dream whatever we want to
But that doesn't mean that your dreams are gonna come true
Instead as a way of getting us to move
Life dangles your dreams in front of you
And unable to resist the temptation, we continue
And it's clear to me that this life is gonna be
All about the dangling possibilities that keep turning in and turning out
Yes it's clear to me that this life is gonna be
All about the dangling possibilities
The road is long and winding
Full of twists and turns
But before you can rise from the ashes
You've got to burn baby burn
Welcome to your barbeque
Where we roast all the dreams
That never came true
Welcome to your barbeque
Pig out and dream anew.