Where are you going in life? Do you want to be successful? Do you have goals in life? Do you want to be a technosexual? (Yes, I did just borrow a word from Urban Dictionary). Do you want to have enough money to keep up with the Jones’s? You probably just answered yes to most of these questions, but the real question is how do we get there? Laura Nash addressed this issue and had some answers in a Neilly Series Lecture entitled “Just Enough – Foundation for Lasting Success” last Thursday. Despite the fact that the presentation was framed around a business model, most of the concepts are applicable to life in general.
Early on, Nash stressed the fact that success might be important, but we need to have a balance in life. A lack of balance, she said, gets in the way of achieving success and poses “success gridlock,” where we are not able to sort out what matters most. “We complain about being overworked, but don’t take vacation time,” she said. Instead, she said that our environment tells us we must be “all out, all of the time,” and that we live in a “never enough” culture.
Nash also noted an interesting observation: the media is where we get most of our examples of successful people and it does not offer an accurate view. “We are living in an environment that is so nutsy about success,” she said. She continued by observing that we only get snapshots – mere glimpses – at the lives of successful people. We see businessmen like Warren Buffet and Bill Gates living in luxury. Then there are celebrities like Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, but we definitely can’t use them as models of success.
Nash also criticized the media’s focus on lifestyle, saying that it opens the door to materialism. She mentioned that storage space grows larger and larger and houses grow in size as our need to store more and more material items increases.
Nash continued by outlining an additional problem, what she called “success on steroids,” asserting that we as humans cannot sustain a peak performance for an extended time and that people who constantly strive for peak performances often suffer burnout. Martha Stewart was cited as an example.
The solution – the key to lasting success – requires what Nash described as the four dimensions: achievement, legacy, happiness and significance. These dimensions are to be applied to our values and beliefs. Achievement is the attainment of our self-imposed goals. Legacy is that the feeling of those achievements be continually satisfying, though she stated it is the least controllable and most passive dimension.
“Happiness,” Nash said, “is about letting go, surrendering.” This dimension’s concept is simple – the ability of one to enjoy oneself regardless of goals and achievements and never being fully consumed by success. Significance is the ability to keep things in perspective, recognizing the importance of family and friends in relation to success.These dimensions will ultimately lead toward a life of lasting success, what Nash described as having accomplishments worthwhile and of lasting importance to ourselves and others. Nash also said our capabilities, values, beliefs and emotions should play a significant role in our realization of these dimensions.
Nash stressed that it is important to grow and develop in all four dimensions, and that to be successful, we must unlearn dysfunctional success methods we have been taught in the past. It is also essential to know when to switch our focus, to potentially abandon a method if prudent, in addition to finding opportunities to combine and link any of the four dimensions. Nash offered an example: eBay founder Jeff Skoll, a film lover, used profits from his auction Web site to invest in a film production company. This company attained success as well, producing such films this year as “Fast Food Nation” and the Oscar-winner “An Inconvenient Truth.”
Nash stressed that it is crucial to set attainable goals, something far too many people avoid. Ultimately, she offered a new, detailed perspective on something we may hear often but rarely sinks in: money can’t buy happiness and we must look within to achieve true success. And if we heed her advice, UR will soon be boasting some more fine alumni.
Levy is a member of the class of 2008.