Authentic success is ‘success beyond success,’ says Irvine

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, June 19, 2013

Our best teachers in life are often those who are older than we are – especially if we’re interested in becoming truly successful human beings.

That was certainly the underlying theme of last week’s surprise Father’s Day column about Cochrane old-timer Walter Wearmouth, 87, an unintentional mentor to many of us younger folks in the art of successful living.

And what has Walter been teaching us by his example? Contentment, happiness, humility and friendliness! (By the way, he and his family tell me that he was very pleased with the honour paid him.)

Picking up on Walter’s example, this week’s column is a third in a series I’m writing on what true success looks like.

You’ll recall that in my June 5 column we heard from Cochrane coffee companion Chris Stanley, founder of C Beyond Success, about his view that true success in life boils down to the answer to one question: “Why am I here?”

Stan’s conclusion? “Success is the moments of sharing with people – a gift of awareness.” Life is to be measured in our relationships to each other, he says.

The responses to Stan’s view of success have been quite inspiring. This week I’d like to share an email I received from David Irvine, prominent Cochrane-based author and keynote speaker, who emphasizes the importance of authentic living.

David wrote:

WHENEVER we speak of success, there are always two levels. The first is outer success. The second is inner – or authentic – success: success beyond success.

If you set a goal (e.g. to win a game, get a promotion, make a certain amount of money, etc.) and you achieve that goal, you are successful. But this is outer success.

Inner, or what some call “spiritual,” success, is something quite different. Inner success is the kind of person you became, and the contribution you made to the world, in pursuit of your goal. Inner success is independent of whether you actually achieve your goal. You can be hugely successful from an inner standpoint and still fail miserably at the outer success (case in point: Eddie the Eagle, 1988 Olympics).

Outer success is fleeting. It lasts only until the next record is broken or the next gold medal is won or the next headlines are written. Inner success, on the other hand, is far more sustainable and lasting. Inner success can last a lifetime – and beyond, with a legacy. (My father's character, for example, lives in me more than a quarter century after his death.) Inner success is what gives you self-worth, self-respect, and sustained confidence.

In my workshops I give participants an exercise: Think of three people you admire. They could be real people, such as Nelson Mandela or your grandmother, or mythical characters such as Hercules or Santa Claus. For me, they would be my mother, my father, and Viktor Frankl, Holocaust survivor, psychologist and author of Man’s Search for Meaning.

Now think of the character traits that make each of them admirable to you. For example, I admire my mother for her wisdom; my father for his compassion, and Viktor Frankl for his resiliency and dignity.

I then have my workshop participants compare these admirable traits with the typical success markers of our culture, the kinds of markers featured in People magazine. After doing this exercise with thousands of participants, I have yet to have any choose people they personally admire based on markers such as fame, fortune, power and appearance. It is fascinating that, culturally, we tend to glorify those celebrity characteristics that ultimately mean so little to us.

It is fine to have a goal of outer success, but from an inner, spiritual perspective, the purpose of having that goal is not to achieve the goal. The purpose of a goal of outer success is to inspire yourself to become the kind of person it takes to achieve it. Then, whether you achieve outer success or not, you can still have inner success, or success beyond success.

This is authentic success: living your life in accord with your values – in the service of others.

THANK YOU, David. More responses to follow.


© 2013 Warren Harbeck

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