For Mike Iamele, success started to mean all the wrong things. He couldn’t imagine how much this realization would change his life.
I grew up in a different time. Life was speeding up. Messages could be sent around the world in mere seconds. Companies could be started anywhere with a wi-fi signal. People like Justin Bieber and Tila Tequila had found international fame from social media. Tech entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerberg were becoming just as big of celebrities as actors and athletes.
And the rules for success were changing.
Everything was happening younger, faster, sooner. And I wanted it now. I wanted the prestigious job and six-figure salary well before my 30th birthday.
And, with a little mixture of persistence and luck, I landed there—my dream job. I was 22, just about to graduate college. I had helped start a PR firm just months before. And, upon graduation, I’d claim my rightful spot as part-owner. It had all fallen into place for me.
I’d played by the rules of success, and I’d won.
I spent my early 20s living the lifestyle we’re told to want in our 20s—drinking too much, sleeping around, making good money, doing work that mattered. I was on top of the world. It seemed like I had figured life out way before my time.
But, truthfully, which each new achievement, I was always a bit let down. It never quite felt like I imagined it would. Success never really felt like success. It felt more like…blood. All over my bathroom floor.
I remember waking up from a night of drinking and vomiting. That wasn’t altogether surprising. But the blood was. Especially when it didn’t stop. For months.
I was hospitalized. I was hooked up to an IV. I underwent test after test as doctors tried to determine what was wrong with me.
And it was about that time that I realized that maybe I was playing the game of success by someone else’s rules.
In the two weeks leading up to my MRI, I had no choice but to redefine my lifestyle—and quickly. I tried every type of therapy known to man, regardless of how “out there” it seemed. Acupuncture, Reiki, reflexology, herbs, meditation, nutrition, green smoothies, EFT, writing forgiveness letters and apologies. I was determined to get better, mostly to get back to my hard-partying, hard-working lifestyle.
All the while, my roommate—a friend I had known for years—was taking care of me while I could barely walk or eat. He’d stay in to watch movies with me. He’d rub my back when I was bent over in pain.
And, sooner or later, it became pretty obvious that we were falling in love with each other. How, I don’t know. Neither of us had been with a man. Neither of us had been interested, at least to my knowledge. Yet there we were. In love.
My mind flashed across the women I’d slept with. My partying lifestyle. My job. My boozing. And I realized that it was great—but it was someone else’s life. I lived that one already, and it left me sick and unhappy. If I was going to be truly happy, I’d have to redefine success on my own terms.
Work on my own terms. Health on my own terms. Happiness on my own terms. And love on my own terms.
I decided to rip down the life I’d spent years building. I decided to try to make this relationship work—even if it could only be platonic. I decided to leave my job and create a new company on my own terms—one where I only worked 4-6 hours a day and removed all stress from my life. I decided to give up booze, to eat healthy, to focus on my own well-being. I decided to remove anyone from my life who wasn’t supporting my newfound definition of success.
And, not surprisingly, my MRI results showed no sign of disease. I was fine. I was better than fine. I was better. But, more than that, I had created a life that was my own—totally and completely my own. One that I had defined for myself.
And I looked back to the outside world—to the rapidly evolving success happening around me. To the pressures on young people—on anyone, really. To the obsession with achieving the world as fast and as soon as possible. To hitting that six-figure mark, or seven-figure mark, or whatever milestone seemed impressive. To being the person you think you’re supposed to be.
And I realized that success isn’t something you can follow. It’s personal. It’s one-of-a-kind. Because it’s your life. And no one else gets to live it but you.
So the only way to achieve what is going to make you happy is to define it for yourself. Maybe that’s money, power, and fame. And, if it is, great. There’s absolutely no judgment when it comes to success. Because it’s all about what you really want.
But maybe it’s unconventional love and healthy living. Maybe it’s making a difference in the world. Maybe it’s traveling and seeing other cultures. Maybe it’s just spending time with loved ones.
Only you get to judge if you’re successful or not. Because only you can create your own definition of success.
You’re playing by your own rules. It’s a game only you can play. In fact, some might say you were born to play it.
And nothing feels more successful than winning by your own rules.
Want more? You can pre-order Mike Iamele’s new book, Enough Already: Create Success on Your Own Terms, coming April 1st from Conari Press.
Find Mike’s Daily Blog at bostonwellnesscoach.com.
Photo: Eli Duke/Flickr