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  July 15, 2011
The Roadmap to Success...


Imagine if you polled every grand prize winner of the lottery and asked them for their secret formula for picking the right numbers. Then week after week you play those same numbers as the previous winners. Do you think that after a year of playing those numbers your chances of winning the lottery would increase? Are the people who won the lottery any smarter than you and I? They must be...they’ve found success and are now multimillionaires.

It might sound ridiculous to compare success with winning the lottery...but many of us do it every day.

We read book after book about the winning strategies of business millionaires, political leaders, and military heroes. We idolize entertainment celebrities who have beaten the odds and found fame and fortune where so many others before them have failed. Our kids strive to one-day become sports stars, using God-given abilities and talents to create multi-million dollar careers.

There is no great magic formula to success, be it financial, artistic, educational, athletic or social. No unifying theories...no utopian worlds...no certaintality.

Success can’t be measured by a bank balance or by how many followers a person has on Twitter or by how many touchdowns were thrown in a season.

Yet we seem to continue to prepare the next generations for just this.

Parents are sending their preschool children to private nursery schools with the hopes that these same children will get into the right grade schools, high schools, and ultimately colleges. They hold their children back a grade (or two) so that they are bigger, smarter, and are more mature than their peers. The hope is that they will become leaders, valedictorians, and team captains giving them the self-esteem to be successful in adulthood.

They study mathematics and science. They study languages and social sciences. They study classical music. The children have tutors. They begin taking SAT prep classes while still in the 6th grade (although the actual tests are not taken until the 11th or 12th grade). Parents regularly hire private coaches, mentors and instructors for their kids because the schools are perceived as not doing enough.

These children may graduate from prestigious universities with PhDs and other advanced degrees. A BA or BS in a single major is no longer adequate to compete in the world. They will graduate and do research and other important things to advance humanity.

We are told (and we believe) that this is the sure path to success. Success comes from being a doctor, an attorney, an engineer. Make a lot of money. Buy a lot of things. Be happy.

Next time you visit your doctor (especially if the doctor is a primary care physician), ask her if she is happy that she became a doctor, using their years of training and acquired skills to make people better and healthy. More than likely you’ll hear a diatribe about how Medicare and insurance companies are cheating their chosen profession, how she is working 80 hours a week just to keep afloat, and/or how much her malpractice insurance costs have risen due to the over-abundance of attorneys looking to sue "rich doctors".

This is not success...it’s insanity!

Being successful doesn’t make us happy...

Being happy makes us successful...

How much better would this world be if we spent as much time and effort in teaching happiness to our children as we do math and science? Teaching creativity? Teaching critical and lateral thinking?

At TED (an annual conference dedicated to exploring new and innovative ideas) a few years back, Sir Ken Robinson gave an inspiring talk about the ways we educate our children. In my opinion, it ranks right up there with Dr. Randy Pausch’s last lecture. It may be worth a moment of your time to watch and listen (click here to view the video)

We need to explain to our kids that real advances in this world come from people who don’t follow the path of the known but instead venture out into the unknown. It comes from people who take the time to make astute observations and formulate new ideas. It comes from people asking questions starting with "if" and "why"?

The problem is that there is no real measurement of happiness. There are no report cards given out at the end of the term rating our happiness. Our happiness doesn’t usually come from others (although it may come from helping others). Our happiness doesn’t come from how much wealth or things that we’ve accumulated.

Happiness generally comes from being content with who we are and what we are doing. We want to make a difference. We want to love and be loved. We want meaningful work to do. We want to go to bed each night and feel like we’ve made a difference that day.

We want our children, friends, co-workers and loved ones to be happy, but we cannot deliver happiness to them. They need to find it themselves. Happiness is derived from the inside and radiated outwards. We alone choose to be happy...or not.

There are countless stories of lottery winners who rue the day that they won. Their new-found riches were supposedly the path to happiness but turned out to it was the road to ruin.

Reading about the journeys others have taken may perhaps merit some interest but in the end we draw our own road map...walk down our own paths...find our own success...create our own happiness.

Thank you for listening...and thank you for your support of OptiFuse as we explore the unmapped areas ahead.

Jim Kalb

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