How to Slow Down and Live a Successful Life
I have been granted the great pleasure and honor of being a new contributor to The Sunday Paper. I couldn’t be more grateful and thrilled about this opportunity, but it also comes with great responsibility, transparency, and authenticity. In some ways, it’s a “careful what you wish for” sort of thing because you want to provide value and a new perspective, but it is also easy to be humbled and challenged by the process.
Take the theme “How to Live Slowly and Still be Successful in Your Life and Career?” Let me be straight here … I am far from the poster child for living slowly. I am an author, speaker, and founder and CEO of a non-profit organization that serves people nationwide and globally. This doesn’t leave a lot of margin in life and the pace each day is daunting. I am also someone who greatly questions the meaning of success. Success to me might be very different from someone else’s definition of it. All to say that it would not be fair to present myself to you as an expert with seven simple steps for you to follow. But I am a thinker and a feeler and my hope is that by providing a few insights around the key phrases of “How to Live Slowly and Still be Successful in Your Life and Career,” I can help you on your journey.
Living slowly is one of the most challenging things for humans to do because it goes against every cell in our body. Life is the most precious thing we have and we experience it as a measurement of time. Meaning time is our greatest treasure. Once a minute passes by, we can’t get it back. It’s gone. This is also why I have always believed that giving someone your time is the greatest gift you can possibly give. It can’t be replaced. But this understanding of time, coupled with our desire to squeeze the most out of it, produces a drive and desire in us to do more, to feel more, to experience more.
I totally get it. One day I did a calculation that I have a love-hate relationship with but now believe it’s more love than hate. I looked at the average life expectancy of the average male and female in North American. Men, our number is 76 years. Women, yours is 81 years. Now for the fun part: 76 years is 39,945,600 minutes; while 81 years is 42,573,600 minutes.
Once I knew this number, I immediately envisioned a giant digital clock that started at 39,945,600 minutes and has been counting down to zero from the moment I took my first breath. Today, my clock reads somewhere around 14,191,200 minutes and counting…down.
I love knowing this number because it has changed the way I live my life. I haven’t tried to slow down, but I now choose experiences and moments that happen to be slower in nature. I cherish playing cards or enjoying a nice meal with my parents. I enjoy getting my hands in the dirt while planting our vegetable garden. I enjoy traveling with my wife. I enjoy watching and loving our pets more than ever before. I enjoy volunteering and giving back. I enjoy listening and being there for a friend. I enjoy lying on a raft in the pool and listening to the birds. None of these moments are driven by my need to slow down, rather my desire to have more meaningful moments in my life.
Maybe our intention need not be to slow down, but rather to create more meaningful moments, which happen to be a bit slower in nature.
“Still Be Successful”
For as long as I can remember, success meant getting good grades, going to college, going to graduate school, getting the title, having the corner office, owning nice things, and that bigger, stronger, faster was the only way. Heck, it’s the American Dream, isn’t it? Well, I took the bait, hook, line, and sinker and ended up with massive anxiety disorder and depression. I followed the recipe. I checked off every box. Yet I hit rock bottom…hard.
Do we really think the reason we were brought into this life is to make lots of money, acquire as many material items as we can, work ourselves to the bone, only to retire and one day lose all of it? As my mom always says, “You never see an armored truck in the procession of cars at a funeral.”
Recently a friend asked me if I think life gets easier or harder as we get older. My answer was something to the effect of, “If you don’t change the focus of your life from success to significance, then life absolutely gets harder.” I believe this wholeheartedly, for the constant quest for success is never-ending and will never fill that gaping hole in our hearts that just want to feel good, to feel loved, to feel like our life has meaning and purpose, to know that we matter, and to one day leave a legacy we can be proud of.
Maybe we should stop trying to be successful and choose significance instead. I promise, your life will slow down and mean so much more to you and the world around you.
“…in Life? Career?”
Isn’t this another way of saying work/life balance? I want to be “successful” in life but also in my career. This idea has always conflicted and saddened me because it causes us to compartmentalize our worlds. Much like there are “Smoking” and “Non-Smoking” sections in certain establishments or “Bully Free Zones” in our schools, the idea of Work/Life Balance suggests that our time is now split between “Work” and “Life.” That working is not living and living is not working. What a nice dual reality that we get to experience every day!
I understand what this concept is promoting and that it’s well-meaning and based on good intentions. After all, it has the word “balance” in it and balance is a good thing. However, the problem is that if we agree on the idea that life is about finding meaning, I don’t believe we only want to find meaning half of the time. In fact, I can say personally that I want to find meaning all the time and in all aspects of my life. So, instead of working on my work/life balance, I choose to focus on my life’s work.
Seeing my life this way doesn’t change the fact that I still work for half of my waking hours, but it does change how I approach my work and career choices. I now choose to live a life, career included, that is fully integrated and aligned with greater purpose and contribution.
Maybe we should all start working on our life’s work. It simplifies and aligns everything, increases our sense of achievement, feels incredible, promotes purpose, and helps bring clarity, and a slowing down, to our life.
This essay was featured in the Oct. 13th edition of The Sunday Paper. The Sunday Paper inspires hearts and minds to rise above the noise. To get The Sunday Paper delivered to your inbox each Sunday morning for free, click here to subscribe.