The Painful Truth About Success

Today I want to talk about some of the realities of success because it’s a wild ride. Okay, so the last 24 hours have been wild.  I got so many emails and messages that all felt right all of a sudden. And I’ll share a couple of examples of those. So we’re literally living out of suitcases for three weeks (which is fine I have no complaints), and I get an email from Tony Robbins asking for connections to my network of talent. Amazing! I also got an email from my publisher, and they are connecting me with one of my favorite authors of all time and asking him to endorse my book. Also really cool and really exciting. And then, as I was about to log off for the night yesterday, I got a message from one of the people I really looked up to in marketing, and he said, “you know, you’re a rock star,” and he sent a really kind and encouraging message. That’s three fantastic things that happened yesterday. And we also opened up the doors to our agency. So so many things are going really great, but at the same time, life still happens. 

And I think sometimes that can be a little bit confusing. Like we think, “Oh, if I could just [fill in the blank], then I could be happy.” “If I could just have a successful business. I would be happy.” “If I could just get my book published. I would be happy.” We fill in the blanks with everything we think will make us happy. 

I’m grateful that I learned pretty early because I remember standing on stage when our business crossed a million dollars, and I was nine months pregnant. I had just spoken at the event, and it looked like everything was winning. And secretly, a lot was crumbling, and I didn’t talk about it because I felt so confused and vulnerable. I thought I was supposed to have everything figured out. 

I have to laugh because the idea that we will ever have everything figured out is almost the definition of insanity, at least for me, it is. The idea that we will be happy when success happens is probably one of the more misleading trains of thought. Now I do want to add a caveat to that sometimes people say, “more money, more problems.” Well, yes and no. I’ve been in seasons in my life where there was like literally no money. I’ve been on welfare; I’ve gone on food stamps. I have slept in one room with my daughter (I think we lived in one room together for around three years.) There are certain things that money does help with when it comes to basic needs such as safety, security, and physiological and psychological needs that are so important. So I’m not going to say it’s impossible, but it’s very difficult to be happy. 

So let’s real fast recognize that there’s an asterisk on what I’m sharing because a certain amount of money makes certain things in life easier, better, and happier. However, there’s a point (and I remember learning that it’s somewhere beyond $70 or $80K per year) they say that making more money does not increase happiness. And it’s amusing because whenever I heard that, I would say, “but I want a chance to try it. I want to try making millions and seeing if happiness comes.” 

The wild thing about success as we think that success, money, building a business, getting opportunities to speak on stage, or getting a book published is going to solve the problems in our life. Now, remember, I’m talking about beyond that $70-80K per year, the amount that it takes to be able to sustain yourself. What’s interesting is beyond that, there are so many different challenges that come up. And sometimes people say, “If I could just make X amount of money, I’d be happy.” 

Well, yes and no. There are a lot of challenges that arise. Even amid success, even while making money. There are different problems. There are different challenges, which is a good way to put it. And sometimes, they can feel bigger and scarier than the initial challenges we experienced on the growth journey. And what’s interesting is sometimes people will get to that place and say, “You know what? This isn’t what I thought. I thought that this was going to solve everything.” And so they’ll like back away because they’re like, “These are bigger challenges now.” 

Yes, absolutely. Making money, building your business, and increasing your platform, all of the hallmarks of success, bring challenges. It’s like a video game. There’s a new level, then a new level, and then a new level again. 

The challenges of paying your bills are one thing, but the pressure of having an entire team with a whole set of families relying on you to pay their bills is a totally different story—bigger pressure. Yes and no, it depends on how you look at it. But I wanted to share this because it can be easy on the journey of growth to see the journey to success as a singular destination. But guess what? It is a moving target. It never stops moving. And that’s really important to know. 

But we think that there’s a singular destination of success that will make all of our problems disappear. And I heard someone say (I want to say it was like Bob Proctor or John Maxwell), “Making more money only solves the problems that money can solve,” which is fantastic. Everything from food, to shelter, to opportunities, to resources. Those things can be addressed with more money, but then we’re left with problems that money can’t solve. And in case you’re wondering, what kind of problems can money not solve? Now I’m going to be very, very intentional with this word here. I’m going to say solve, not to be replaced by growth, heal, hope, or manage, okay? Money can’t solve a lack of happiness. Money can’t solve being a terrible human. Money cannot solve (for many people) mental health issues. Money cannot solve marriage problems. Now can it help? Can money buy additional support and resources? Yes. 

But there comes the point, and I want to still be very intentional with my words here. There comes the point where you almost experience this crash of, I would just say, disappointment. When you realize that money doesn’t solve most of the things that we actually face each day. And I want to share this because so many people experience success and then experience the mega crash of disappointment when their expectations aren’t met. They were hoping success would make them happy, make their marriage great, make their kids love them, and want to talk to them, and the truth is it doesn’t. 

And please keep in mind I have no complaints. There is nothing to complain about. I’m alive. We have food. My kids are fantastic. I have so many reasons to celebrate. I share this because the reality of success can leave you with isolated core issues that you suddenly realize it’s time to face. For example, I can hire a whole team around me to overcompensate for or cover my insecurities, but that does not get rid of my insecurities. We’re still human. It’s like one of the hallmarks of being a human with a human experience. It doesn’t just go away. I thought money would solve my depression and anxiety. Guess what? It’s still a guest passenger in my life at times. And if one thing is true, your kids don’t really care how much money you make beyond having their basic needs met. It doesn’t make you cooler to them. Regardless of your success, you’re still you. 

I think sometimes we visualize that like we’re going to become successful, and suddenly we wake up with like a six-pack and fantastic hair down to our waist and the perfect outfits and stuff. And there are moments when it is humbling to realize that I’m still me. I don’t care if I made a billion dollars. I’m still someone who crosses my legs at any restaurant I go to. I still prefer activewear to a blazer, a pantsuit, or a beautiful dress.  I love being comfortable in my clothes. I no longer have excuses for not being the person I want to be. And it’s also simultaneously kind of a beautiful process to strip away the first layers levels of the needs. Having safety, security, and physiological needs met, but then you are left with yourself: your blocks, your insecurities, your fears, and your doubts. And not enough people talk about this. 

Because everyone positions success like, here’s my secret system, and as soon as you implement it, your life will be rainbows, daisies, and sunshine, and your farts will smell like Chanel perfume, but that’s not reality. And it’s interesting because, for the first time in my life, I realized that I could go back to making $50,000 a year and be very happy with my progress and with who I am. And I know a lot of people who don’t experience that. They don’t work on the problems that money can’t solve. I know it’s a little bit of a tangent, but it just feels right. 

The other day I was settling into my kitchen, and I noticed a bunch of dirty dishes in the sink. One of the incredible privileges I’ve had is giving full-time employment to fantastic people, including my in-laws, to help me manage my household. And so I do a lot less laundry and dishes these days. And it was Sunday night, sitting in this apartment, realizing our lives were in boxes and suitcases. There are so many people who make it seem bad or wrong, or inefficient, or whatever to do your own dishes, or do your own laundry, or straighten up the living room, or any of those household tasks that remind us that we’re human. It probably sounds like I’m really privileged, and the answer is absolutely I am, without a doubt. And I’m very grateful for that. But I sat and just washed the dishes, and I was thinking about how with or without success, you are who you are. It doesn’t solve everything. And that’s a beautiful thing. 

I’m really grateful, but money doesn’t solve everything. Some of the best, most intense growth I’ve ever experienced has actually come from facing who I am beyond the problems and challenges. And somewhere, there’s some guru who’s going to say, “What an idiot! Why would she wash her own dishes when she can hire someone else to do that?” I understand that; however, I’m still me, and you’re still you that’s all we ever get. And I realize that I am not too good, too big, too fancy, or too successful to wash the dishes. 

I think about that saying. I think it comes from Bruce Lee, but it may also come from ancient, I want to say Buddhist or Taoist wisdom. “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water; after enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.” I want to say the same thing: before success, be the best person you can be, leave every situation and every room better than you found it, and be kind to people. After success, do the same thing. Be the best person you can, leave every room, space, or relationship better than you found it, be a good person, and help others before and after success. That’s kind of all we’re left with. 

There’s sometimes this point where some of us almost feel or act as though we’re invincible. And there’s this beautiful reminder that we are not invincible. Nothing is promised. I could literally lose everything tomorrow, but I’m still me, and I still have to work on the things that money will not replace. It’s a beautiful thing. Success is both humbling and terrifying. It is also exciting and full of opportunities. But just a reminder that success doesn’t replace personal growth and development.

Bye for now!

Check out my Youtube Video on this topic.

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