If I had to guess, I overhear someone mention how lucky someone else is on a weekly basis. Or I will hear of a friend’s planned vacation, and another person chiming in “Wow, it must be nice.” These two simple phrases make me cringe. I understand that sometimes they are said in love and without ill intent. But they actually discount all the work and the struggles that particular person went through to enjoy that success or that vacation.
My parents recently returned from a 12 day vacation in Maui. They enjoyed the sun, good food and the bliss of having absolutely nothing on their calendar. I overheard a friend of theirs tell them, “Wow you’re so lucky.” It was all I could do not to pepper that person with a laundry list of what the last 40 years of “luck” actually looked like. Let’s see, it would start off with the sacrifices made on a single income, a father who commuted to work 90 minutes each morning and then back each evening, doing whatever he could trying to make ends meet so his wife could remain a homemaker, a woman running a household all on her own, day in and day out, with no breaks, taking care of two kids who were less than two years apart in age. There would be countless stories filled with raising children where the rare vacations were centered around them and never around the husband and wife. This story would include a chapter on the crushing implications of cancer treatments followed by severe depression and whole lot of therapy. The “luck” would run through every chapter, and each would be laced with determination, tears of disappointment and times of struggle. I realize that people likely make these comments with the best of intentions but I invite you to really think about how they can be perceived and what is being discounted.
I was fortunate to learn at a young age that people rarely fall into success or fortune. I was taught not to look at the treasure stored in the wagon but to expand my eyesight to the Clydesdales that pull the wagon. The amount of maintenance it takes to protect that treasure and the “treasures” that come out of the Clydesdales rear end. The American Dream doesn’t come without a price.
In our business, the same rings true. People who succeed are often presented with opportunities, but if they don’t know what to do with that opportunity, they very well could fall flat on their faces. Not only do they make a conscious decision to make something of the opportunity, they also work hard. The speed bumps in life that arise only slow them down for a few moments but they are not deterred. The train will inevitably leave the tracks and through dedication, perseverance and commitment, you can almost always get right back on track.
Oftentimes if we go back far enough in “their story,” we see their first presented opportunity was a failure and sometimes of epic proportion. The successful business owner almost always failed at their first attempt. The 40-year-old going back to school to further climb the corporate ladder quite likely already tried to be a student and didn’t succeed.
Abraham Lincoln failed in business three times and failed campaigning seven times prior to becoming the President of the United States. Walt Disney himself was fired by the editor of a newspaper because he ‘lacked in ideas.’ Oprah Winfrey was fired from her job as a news anchor because she “wasn’t fit for television.” Success isn’t achieved overnight, it is built brick by brick and realized only after many have fallen and chosen to get up again.
I challenge us all to not discount others’ success and achieved dreams nor to dismiss them as “luck.” To those I have ever congratulated on their success, be it retirees, newly-promoted command staff or someone with a professional achievement, I offer my apologies. The correct term should have been “Way to go! You deserve this!” Your efforts do not go unnoticed. Relish in your success and stand proud. We see you.