Strive for Happiness, Not Success.

In the past year I’ve seen my fair share of changes. I took a chance on a new job, got married and even attempted to start my own business. The one part of this that has panned out as planned was the marriage. It’s because of this that I have started to think more and more about how I approach life. At first I think I put too much emphasis on success. When success didn’t come immediately (as it so often doesn’t) I burned out on whatever it was I was doing. This is why I’m no longer emphasizing success when planning out my path going forward. I’ve always been more successful when I’ve done what makes me happy… It sounds simple and cliche I know, but seriously it’s true.

When I was in college I wanted desperately to be a successful graphic designer. I put all of my eggs in that basket. However, I lived in a small town where a select few already had a corner on the design market and it was just too difficult to break into. No matter what I tried I just couldn’t get a client to bite, and if they did bite they usually didn’t pay. I put so much pressure on myself to be an overnight success that I really came to loathe the graphic design business altogether. It was around this time that I had started getting into podcasting and making tutorials for people on Photoshop. This was fun to me and I did it for free because it’s what I loved to do.

I spent hours recording video tutorials, writing blog posts, and posting in forums answering design related questions. I loved it! During this time I never really had a goal of becoming a teacher or a published author of any kind. However one day I got a phone call asking me to come to New York and do a screen test for Total Training. I was floored. Not only had somebody been watching my tutorials, but they actually thought I was good enough to teach on the “big stage.” The rest is, as they say, history but hopefully you get the idea. Every time I have tried to do something, even if it’s in my “wheel house,” purely for monetary reasons, I have fallen flat on my face. But, when I’m just doing what I do best and not really thinking about it, opportunity seems to just land in my lap!

This last year of my life is a great example. I took a job with a company in Oklahoma City whom I thought would really make me successful. I packed up my life and moved (with my wife) across the country in pursuit of what I thought would be a better life. The problem with this was that I let the idea of success and the echo of empty promises guide my way. In all honesty I probably wasn’t the best fit for the job. I’m a very free spirited person and I enjoy being given a wide range of creative freedom. This simply wasn’t the environment for that. I’m a pretty versatile guy that can teach a wide variety of things to a wide variety of people… Again, this was not the environment for that.

During my time at this job I began to revamp my podcasts and teach independently at conferences and events around the country. I wasn’t doing it for the money… Anyone who has done that can tell you that much. I was doing it because I loved it. I enjoyed going places and meeting new people. I enjoyed recording videos and interacting with the folks that watched them. Through these activities I began to gain some sort of notoriety again and the calls started coming in. Again, I wasn’t actively looking for work. In fact, I had a great job that paid me decent and allowed me to teach classes (like I love to do) for a living. As I said before though, I wasn’t feeling as though I was successful and therefore I burned out.

I chose to leave this job after only six months. Some may say that’s ridiculous and that I didn’t give it enough time… You may be right. However, I can tell you that now that I’m having fun again and doing what I absolutely love to do, I’ve never felt more successful. No, I don’t get a “steady” paycheck anymore and yes I had to move back to the small town in KY, but I know great things are coming because I’ve chosen happiness over success. I’m not saying it’s a recipe everyone can follow or should follow for that matter. I’m fortunate enough to have an understanding wife and a supporting family that allows me to live life on my terms. However, if you do have the opportunity to do so, I urge you to evaluate your life and see if your pipe dream of success is actually getting in the way of you being successful. Are you doing what you love? If you weren’t getting paid for what you’re doing right now, would you still go to work everyday? If the answer is no, then you’re probably getting in the way of your own success. In just a month since having this epiphany and choosing to change my path I’ve already began work for two companies that I’ve wanted to be a part of for years, booked a half-dozen speaking engagements, and been offered more freelance work than I can shake a stick at… and that’s a great feeling!