Thursday, April 30, 2015

Success Tax

Image by Bernavazqueze

I have learned something about success: I have learned that it comes with a tax.

Achieve your dreams, they say. Anything you want can come your way. Nothing to it, they say. Just follow a simple system and anything and everything can be yours. Not so. There is a tax you pay to get what you want, whether you want more income, healthier relationships, emotional satisfaction, spiritual growth or a well-lived life. It is called dedication.

Orson Welles once said, "My doctor has advised me to give up those intimate little dinners for four, unless, of course, there are three other people eating with me." Some people will tell you that you can lose 25 or 50 pounds in just weeks. It's easy, they say. Not so. Andy Rooney observed that the two biggest sellers in any bookstore are cookbooks and diet books. “Cookbooks tell you how to prepare the food and diet books tell you how not to eat any of it.” If it were easy to lose weight, who’d buy the books?

Some people will tell you that you can have the body of an athlete, or the Incredible Hulk or a fashion model (assuming that’s what you want). It's quick and simple, they say. Not so. It is never easy to succeed at difficult goals. There is a tax, and that tax is called dedication.

Do you want to excel at a sport, play a musical instrument well or become an accomplished artist? One man was lost in New York City. He poked his head into a taxi cab and asked the driver, "How do you get to Yankee Stadium?" The driver responded, "Practice, practice, practice." You want to become really good at something you enjoy? You probably can. But there is a tax to pay and that tax is called dedication.

Many of us would like closer relationships with a spouse or a child or with friends. There are never guarantees, but I promise that those relationships will suffer without dedication. When they were small, I wanted to figure out how to be closer to my young boys. And I noticed what the problem was...I wasn’t spending enough high-quality, significant time with them. So, in addition to my other parental activities, I decided that I would take one of them out for breakfast every week. Just the two of us. For me it was alone time with one child. For my sons, it was a chance to get Dad all by himself -- with no distractions. 

I scheduled the breakfast dates a few days in advance. Some weeks it seemed like more of a nuisance and I was tempted to skip. Some weeks we didn’t have the money. Some weeks I had an unusually busy day ahead and believed I just didn’t have the time. But it was a high priority. I dedicated myself to it and, regardless of good reasons to cancel, I made it happen anyway. (And if truth be told, my sons wouldn’t let me skip -- they looked forward to eating food they usually didn’t get at home.) As I now figure it, I had breakfast alone with one of my children over 500 times. It became a time for listening and talking and bonding; never a time for correcting and persuading (those were the ground rules). As I look back, I made plenty of mistakes as a father, but if I had it to do over again, I would still do the breakfasts.

We pay a tax to succeed at anything worthwhile. That tax is called dedication, and here's the most wonderful part. Once you pay it, once you truly dedicate yourself to something important, you'll find the price was worth it.

-- Steve Goodier

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