The Feel Of Success

For years I wanted to know what success felt like. That was my secret wish. I had seen success from a distance and those successful people looked at peace. Sometimes I could imagine this peace I believed that successful people were experiencing, but it always felt like something outside of me, and as soon as I got close to it in my imagination it vanished like a shadow in a window. Then one day I was asked to give a lecture. This was something I had long imagined I would enjoy doing, but imagining is never the same as doing. I would not know if it was a pretend desire or genuine one until I had actually experienced it, just as you cannot know if you enjoy writing stories until you have tried to write one.

It was to be a long lecture – two hours – too long for me to memorize what I was going to say. As the lecture began, I looked out at the strangers who had paid actual money to listen me decide if I liked lecturing and I felt as though I needed to be a little bit louder, a little bit funnier, a little bit more interesting than I actually was.

This proved exhausting, and I could not maintain this better version of myself for the full two hours. In fact, I could hardly maintain it for fifteen minutes. Surprisingly, the lecture started going much better after that first fifteen minutes. I stopped thinking about the fact that I was standing in front of strangers and I started thinking about the next thing I wanted to say.

Midway through hour two I was trying to make a point. I felt the point needed a story. I remembered a favorite story of mine that I thought would do the trick. I had told this story before. I had told it to my brother and sister, to my mother, to my friends and coworkers, to my wife and to my children. I loved telling this story and stories like it to illustrate ideas. It’s what I did.

So I began telling this story to these strangers, telling it just as I had always told it. It was so easy to tell this story, so familiar and comfortable it almost felt like cheating. “Oh, I get it,” I thought. “Success feels like me.”

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