If You Want Success, You’ll Have To Deal With The Pits

We’ve all heard the saying, “Life’s a bowl of cherries.” It’s a quick way to remind ourselves to enjoy life. To savor every moment and all that life has to offer. However, life has a yin and yang quality to it. For example, darkness and light. Good and bad. Cherries and pits. Understanding this is important when we talk about success.

Ambitious people are drawn to success, be it monetary or in the form of great achievement. They become disciplined and singularly focused on reaching their goals and objectives. They manage their time expertly and don’t let others derail their efforts. Interestingly, the strengths of successful people are often their weaknesses. What makes them succeed in one area can cause failure in another.

Think of the focused doctor who sacrifices years of education to become a neurosurgeon. Except the long hours cost him his marriage. Or the work-aholic entrepreneur who built a multi-million dollar company, but she barely knows her children. These are stark examples, but illustrate the point that success requires tradeoffs. The greater the success, often, the greater the sacrifices.

Blogger James Clear wrote and excellent article on this titled “The Shadow Side of Greatness: When Success Leads to Failure.” As James Clear notes: “Many of the qualities that make people great have shadow sides as well. Picasso’s singular focus on art meant that everything else in life had to take a back seat, including his relationships and his children.”

James Clear attended a recent Pablo Picasso exhibition. He learned that Picasso was a prolific artist, creating well over 20,000 pieces of art (and maybe as much as 50,000 pieces). Picasso lived to be 91 years old and was worth over $500 million upon his death in 1973. Clearly, Picasso was famously successful. But his personal life was a train wreck of affairs, infidelity and suicides of loved ones.

James Clear provided this observation in his article: “Do you want the shadow that comes with the success? Do you want the baggage that comes with the bounty? What kind of pain are you willing to bear in the name of achieving what you want to achieve? Answering this question honestly often leads to more insight about what you really care about than thinking of your dreams and aspirations.”

I’ve wanted to be a full-time, professional artist and writer for a long time. But I was already a full time police chief. Because my wife and son mean everything to me, I accepted the fact that full-time art and writing would have to wait. I was also unwilling to leave a solid career in law enforcement for the uncertainty of a career writing and painting.

Tradeoffs. Cherries and pits. Sacrifices and successes. Wherever you are today, don’t just think about what success looks like. Think about what pain you can endure in the service of ambition. For Pablo Picasso, his art came first. For me, my art came second to my family. The good news, though, is that seasons change and doors can open for your ambitions later.

I won’t die with 500 million in the bank and world wide acclaim as an artist. But I’ll die knowing that I was there for my wife and son. And I still managed to find joy creating art, too. And for me, that’s how I define success.

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