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The Winner’s Edge: Be Like Sisyphus

The Winner’s Edge: Be Like Sisyphus

Writ­ten by: Scott Fry

Steve Jobs was not suc­cess­ful because he was a pro­gres­sive thinker, an advan­ta­geous busi­ness­man, or an extra­or­di­nary per­son­al­ity. He was suc­cess­ful because he was not complacent.

Sub­sti­tute any other suc­cess­ful per­son into this equa­tion, and it will yield the same result, that the true dif­fer­ence between being aver­age and being suc­cess­ful is never giv­ing in to the per­pet­ual ten­dency toward con­tent­ment. The over­whelm­ing inhibitor of suc­cess is com­pla­cency. As we grow both per­son­ally and pro­fes­sion­ally, we often look to men­tors to help show us best prac­tices and expand our think­ing as we approach new sit­u­a­tions. Although help­ful, this con­cen­tra­tion on doing what is right often fails to focus on an attribute that is a toxin, leak­ing into all aspects of your life, devel­op­ing an atti­tude of contentment.

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If you put your focus on never being con­tent, rather than focus­ing on “how” to do some­thing, then you will find success.

Over­all, peo­ple often get too com­fort­able with their life and their sur­round­ings; they are too con­tent with their pro­fes­sion, their rela­tion­ships, and their passions/hobbies, lead­ing them to be “com­fort­able.” As a cow is con­fined to his or her own graz­ing land, con­tent with the sit­u­a­tion that is upon him or her, so we find our­selves. For a suc­cess­ful life, we need to go beyond the con­fines we find our­selves in (or we put our­selves in). We should never be sat­is­fied with the graz­ing land that is before us. Sure, naysay­ers might argue that, this men­tal­ity will result in per­pet­u­ally chas­ing some­thing that you can never grasp.  I urge you, how­ever, to be like Sisy­phus, a Greek mytho­log­i­cal char­ac­ter (the King of Corinth). Sisy­phus was con­demned for an eter­nity to push a rock up a hill and each time upon reach­ing the top, the rock would end­lessly tum­ble back down to the bot­tom. So why did Sisy­phus con­tinue to endure? The author Albert Camus (cah-moo) argued that it was not until Sisy­phus found exis­tence in push­ing the rock up the hill, that he found pur­pose in life. As young adults, we often have lofty goals that we work toward, push­ing our own rock up the hill. When we reach our goals and we see the rock tum­bling back down the bot­tom. Com­pla­cency is telling your­self that “you’ve already pushed up the rock” so why do it again? Like Sisy­phus, we must find exis­tence and pur­pose in striv­ing to become excel­lent in every area of our life, which is a never-ending journey.

A friend recently referred to me as a “nomad” – as a ref­er­ence to my recent expe­ri­ences liv­ing and work­ing abroad, but I find greater mean­ing in this com­ment that was made non­cha­lantly: it was an anal­ogy for how you should live your life. No, I’m not advo­cat­ing mov­ing to a dif­fer­ent coun­try each year or even to live off of the land, but you should never let the “grass grow under your feet.” Life is too short, there is too much to accom­plish, too much to con­tribute to the bet­ter­ment of human­ity to be “comfortable.”

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 So, what does this “con­tent­ment” look like and what are signs that you’re giv­ing into this urge? Firstly, con­tent­ment can be found in every aspect of your life, and just because you’re suc­cess­ful in one area of your life, it doesn’t mean that you’re free of con­tent­ment in another area (or even devel­op­ing the men­tal­ity). In my last arti­cle, “Why Details Mat­ter,” I dis­cussed the con­cept that the small details mat­ter most. Con­tent­ment is not fuss­ing over the small details. More con­cretely, it’s being sat­is­fied with just tak­ing home a decent pay­check or get­ting fair marks at work. It’s being an “okay” friend — not nec­es­sar­ily keep­ing up with old friends, not mak­ing it a pri­or­ity to see them. It’s call­ing your par­ents or grand­par­ents “some­times.” It’s not giv­ing your roman­tic rela­tion­ships every­thing that you have… it’s gen­eral lazi­ness, a lack of pride, and a lack of appre­ci­a­tion for your life.

“But, Scott, I would never let myself do that.” I hope not, but it’s a lot eas­ier said than done. As Chris Far­ley said in his famous Sat­ur­day Night Live char­ac­ter Matt Foley:

I’m sure that as a young adult that you’re eager to get out and “rock” the world, that you’re going to “go out there and grab the world by the tail and wrap it around and pull it down and put it in (your) pocket.” Life is tough and long. It’s easy to fall into the mind­set of complacency.

How do you pre­vent this slide?

  1. Cel­e­brate accom­plish­ments briefly and then move on to the next goal or next assign­ment. As cliché as it is, “stay hungry.”
  2. Sur­round your­self with great peo­ple. One, among many things, that I learned from my par­ents is that “you are the com­pany you keep.” Sur­round your­self with moti­vated, accom­plished peo­ple. My best friends are my inspi­ra­tion, the fire under my feet, and impor­tantly, they hold me account­able. They will call me out. They will sup­port me. They will chal­lenge me to become a bet­ter person.
  3. Self-reflect. Don’t just set goals, live them. Write a per­sonal state­ment. Why are you here? After you meet your goals, the per­sonal state­ment is some­thing that will keep your life com­pass on straight path, not allow­ing you to drift into the land of contentment.

 Be great. Have the winner’s edge. 

Scott Fry


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