Finding Success In Life

In my life, I am fortunate to have accomplished a lot. Whether it is personal, business or other life goals, I have crossed many finish lines. Fist pumps amid victories, which at times, I felt would never come. But it was not easy. In fact it was often mirrored in a fog, amid valleys where the obstacles seemed insurmountable at times. Wondering, why life was so difficult.

And yet, as dark as that may sound I can attest to one simple truth of life. There are no shortcuts. I don’t care what it is you are trying to achieve. Shortcuts, simply do not exist.

That’s the good news. Actually, that is awesome news. As counterintuitive as it may sound.  Something that took me a while to truly grasp.

A reality, that along the path of struggle, lays countless rewards. Opportunities for true self-discovery. Rewards that are far greater than the final destination. In fact, the final destination is often not an end point, but a new beginning.

The Proof

In 1996, I remember self-funding my retail store during the startup phase. I had a small SBA loan, but was grossly under-capitalized. If anyone understands retail, they understand it’s all about cash flow. Sure you may get 30-60 days to pay an invoice, but early on, you’re not generating cash fast enough to pay this invoice when due.  It’s difficult, frustrating and only understood by those who are truly in the trenches. The concept is simple, a basic teaching in any finance class. But to understand it, truly, you have to live it.

I have countless stories I can share about creative ways I found to pay bills. Stories of countless NSF charges, pleading with credit managers and more.  But they would only obscure the fond memories I have of this difficult period.

I’m Hungry, Literally

There was one particular evening, amid a very dark period that stands out. I can immediately put myself right back into that moment to this very day. And I often do. To reflect, and remember of what I have overcome.

It was late one evening, and I had just closed the store. A twelve hour, solo-shift was in the books. I was hungry and got in my car to grab some food. The check engine light was on, as was the gas light. But I didn’t have time for that. Nor the money at the moment.

I drove to the ATM, “asked” for twenty bucks and patiently waited. I was denied. Overdrawn. Three grand in the hole. No soup for you!

So I moved to option B. Something all entrepreneurs have to do. Pivot to their nearest option. I drove to the store, and borrowed $20 from the til. Four years of working seven days a week, often alone, and I can’t even afford food.

Depth Of The Valley

A low point by many standards. I mean I have committed everything to this dream. I’m essentially broke. I had left an insanely good paying, corporate job for “this.” One could easily point to me and say this is what failure looks like. This is why you never pick the road less traveled.

But here’s the kicker. I remember walking back to my car (the one with little gas left) as it was getting late. And I said to myself “I love this.” I was so happy. So free. So alive. It was awesome. And I knew right there I would be successful. Why? Because I didn’t quit. I had the courage and ability to find a way.  And I did. I was hungry, both literally and figuratively.

At that very moment, I knew I was doing what I loved. And when you do what you love, no one can beat you. You simply have to much passion to let failure get in the way. Truly an amazing moment in my life. One that was not obscured by money. Simply me amid my weakness. All alone and yet feeling so strong.

Twelve years later I sold the store to a competitor and moved onto my next adventure. One that only the freedom of self-employment could provide. Clearly, a moment few would understand. One, which demonstrated, why you should often choose the road less traveled.

What About Luck?

Sure, there is some luck in the world. When a random event happens in one’s life. At some random time. Being no direct result of one’s action. Pure serendipity.But the vast majority of what appears to be luck is anything but. Rather it is countless years of hard work, failures, struggles which set up opportunities.  Successful entrepreneurs don’t look for luck. Rather opportunities, created through hard work. Understanding that in life, you create your own luck.

The Moral Of The Story

Accept, embrace and love the journey. Don’t view it as a necessary means to an end. If you do, you’ll miss out on the true joy along the path. Often the fuel needed to keep you moving forward.

Don’t look for shortcuts. They do not exist. Real success at anything requires hard work. Losing weight, running your first marathon, building a business, relationships, careers, you name it, all require work. Embrace it. Enjoy it. Have fun.