Success is being fully alive in the now with contentment

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, July 18, 2013

Competence, confidence, integrity, mindfulness and compassion were at the heart of a fascinating coffee conversation on success I was part of this week with three motivation consultants and a railway engineer.

But first, a few more emailed responses to our series on success.

Author/speaker Annette Stanwick, of Calgary, wrote that she agreed with Chris Stanley’s definition of success based on why we are here (see my column for June 5):

“The things we value, our passions and our desires will fuel what we do and how we live our lives,” she said. “If we are in tune with those things, our legacy will reflect how we live out those things in our lives.

“Whom do I admire most? I admire those individuals who have overcome great odds in their lives, who have risen above difficult experiences and who don't allow the difficulties and painful situations of life to hold them back from living life to the fullest –a life God designed us to live!”

Darryl Klassen, of Langley, B.C., is the Aboriginal Neighbours program co-ordinator for the Mennonite Central Committee British Columbia (see my column for July 12, 2006). He sent us a great story about what success looks like in working clothes:

“A few months ago I attended the funeral of one of my favourite uncles,” Darryl said. “Uncle Mark grew up dirt-poor in southwestern Saskatchewan. He was the youngest of nine, and the one who stayed on the farm. He was a cowboy and a cattle-truck driver all his life. He and Josie, his wife, took in wayward nephews, like me in my youth.

“To commemorate his life, the family had to reserve the biggest church in southwestern Saskatchewan, the Catholic church in Shaunavon. There were likely in excess of 500 people there, many of whom stood around the walls. His funeral procession was led by a convoy of semi trucks spit-polished until they shone.

“He had no degrees, no titles, and no wealth to speak of,” Darryl concluded, “but if measured by the effect his life had on his family, his neighbours, his community and beyond, his life was a huge success.”

From Mumbai, India, our long-distance coffee companion Raj Patwardhan shared his view that “success is contentment.”

“Try weaving a cobweb or building an ant hill or constructing a honeycomb,” he said. “No one rewarded the spider, ant or bee. No one wrote a eulogy for them. They had no name or fame, but surely they must have had contentment. They were born as an ant, a spider and a bee, lived and perished contented as an ant, a spider and a bee, and will be remembered the same way. Were they successful is a matter of individual judgment and perception. Being human with contentment, in my humble opinion, is success.”

Contentment quite nicely captures the spirit of the coffee conversation I referred to at the beginning of this column.

With me Monday morning at Cochrane Coffee Traders, upstairs at the big table, were motivation consultants Chris Stanley, David Irvine and Lori Craig, and Lori’s husband, Joe Pasternak, a railroad engineer.

Since Chris was the one who raised the topic of success with us originally, he wanted to chat face-to-face with some of us who had added our comments on success in follow-up columns.

Chris began by emphasizing the importance of living in the now, in terms not unlike Raj’s.

Yes, it’s about mindfulness, Lori said, and to mindfulness David added authenticity, and all agreed that a proper understanding of ego must also be part of the picture, because success must include being true to oneself.

Joe picked up on the virtue of integrity – of being true to oneself – with an example from his profession, headlined recently because of the run-away train disaster in Quebec.

It is critical that an engineer not only know how to do his job, Joe said, but that he has “a personal desire to do it well, in spite of naysayers.”

All agreed that success in this world implies competence-based self-confidence, but not merely for self-gratification. Youthful visions of personal achievement have their place, David noted, but we must learn to think as adults with a vision for the greater good of all.

Thanks, everyone, for your wisdom.


© 2013 Warren Harbeck

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