Maybe it's because I'm in my mid-40s and part of what a friend from college calls the sandwich generation, helping out with both our children and our parents, but I am once again thinking through what it means to succeed or, in the language of sports and politics, what it means to win.
Both of us have children in late elementary school and middle school. This means that we have fewer hands-on duties as mothers, and we are no longer fully consumed by just making it through the day. But we are also very aware that we will not be around forever. In my case, that has led me to wonder about the legacy I will leave my children.
They were born 22 months apart, which made the first two years of my second child's life a bit of a blur. During my son's first year of life, I thought of myself as successful if all three of us made it through the day in one piece.
While I welcome the fact that my daily hands-on responsibilities have decreased as their ages have increased, the breathing space has given me time to reassess where I am.
During the past few weeks, I've been wondering if I'm on the right path. Should I have taken a different turn in earlier years? Am I doing what God has called me to do? Am I marking time or making progress?
In a world where accomplishment and affluence are the easiest measuring stick, am I successful? How should I think of success, and does success change as one gets older?
This week, I realized that this level of navel-gazing is not helpful because, as I was reminded by a friend's book, it's not about me.
Thank goodness, now I can quit worrying about me and get on with my life.
I can thank Dr. Frank Luntz for that epiphany. Slightly disheveled, constantly in motion, talking rapidly with conviction and confidence, Luntz looks more like a mad scientist than like the well-known pollster, language artist and political guru that he is.
Luntz helped refine the language used in the Republican Revolution of 1994, and since then he has added business consulting to his repertoire.
No longer content to focus solely on communication issues and optimization of words, Luntz's lays out winning business and personal principles in his newest book, "Win: The Key Principles to Take Your Business From Ordinary to Extraordinary," (Hyperion Books, 2011).
His nine Ps of success are as follows: People-centered, Paradigm breaking, Prioritization, Perfection, Partnership, Passion, Persuasion, Persistence and Principled action. Throughout the book, Luntz offers real-life examples from business, sports and politics of how his principles can be incorporated into life. In addition, he recommends focusing on goals that go beyond monetary ones. Luntz notes that "winning transcends self. It is done in service to a higher calling to improve the human condition."
Luntz has led me to question myself. What I am doing to be extraordinary? Am I working toward leaving this world in a little better condition once I am gone?
Am I winning - not in terms of money saved or accomplishments attained, but in terms of people reached and inspired to live their best life? These are questions worth thinking about again and again.
"Winners understand that it's not about them, it's about you," Luntz notes in his closing chapter.
As we look for leaders in our community, in business, in politics and even in our family, we naturally gravitate toward those who want us to be more, to do more, to reach for more and to accomplish more. Leaders who understand we are not interested in their problems or their challenges, but interested in helping us find solutions to make our lives better. Leaders who work hard, who live life with passion, who get up every day ready to once again work to win. Leaders who remind us that, together, we can make the world a better place.
Winners who understand it's not about me, it's about you.
Learn more about Jackie Gingrich Cushman at Creator's Syndicate, www.creators.com.