Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue.”
Viktor Frankl – Man’s Search for Meaning
This website is called “SlamDunkSuccess.” My goal in building it was to create a place where I can help others achieve success. Unlike my first two sites, this site is not focused solely on coaches and people in the athletic world. It is for anyone trying to achieve some sort of success in any endeavor.
The very first thing on the Home page (apart from when I have a special event or new release) is a quote from John Wooden. It is his definition of success.
“Success is peace of mind that is the direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”
This is my favorite definition of success. I tried to tweak it and do all kinds of things to be able to create my own definition of success. The more I tried, though, the more I realized how close to perfect that definition is when it comes to aligning with my feelings on success.
I also love the quote by Viktor Frankl at the top of this post.
Most of us aim for success. Most of us have a goal in mind out there so that when we achieve it, we will know we have been successful.
There is nothing wrong with having goals. Goals are really helpful for giving us things to shoot for in the future.
But that’s where goals live — in the future. They are out there, and oftentimes they are WAY out there.
But according to Frankl, if we spend our whole time focused on aiming for the target (goal), we are going to miss it more often than not. We will get so wrapped up in the end-result that we will often not do all of the so-called “little things,” the habits and actions that actually lead to the end-result.
Yes, we need goals.
Yes, we need something to go after.
Post those things up on a wall, bathroom mirror, refrigerator, computer screen, notebook or wherever helps you see them. Look at them as often as you want in order to keep them in your mind.
But in order to bring about the success of reaching those goals, you need to focus on the proper performance of the habits and actions that you need to accomplish the goals.
Don’t aim at the target; aim at doing the actions with the proper discipline necessary for you to hit the target.
For many years, I have called this “The Process.” (Sound familiar, Philadelphia 76ers fans?!)
In my years as a coach, I came to realize that my players were all too often, focused way too much on the outcome — making the shot, winning the game — than on the process to achieve the outcome — using the proper shot form, working as hard as they could and executing together as one unit.
When they stopped worrying about the result (scoreboard) and started focusing more on the process (actions necessary to perform the right way), they started to see their success improve.
I often use a story I heard years ago about Lebron James shooting free throws as an analogy for this concept, and it applies to all walks of life.
In his first few years in the NBA, Lebron James developed at such a rapid pace that people could tell he was destined to be one of the all-time greats. Yet, in his fourth year, he saw one area of his game actually get worse — his free throw shooting. He was below 70% for the first time.
The shooting coach he had hired asked him a simple question — “What do you think about when you shoot a free throw?”
“I think about making it,” was Lebron’s response.
“Quit thinking about making the shot. Think about your shooting process that, when you do it correctly, creates the right conditions for you to make the shot. Focus on the process and let the results take care of themselves.”
Now, I’m sure many of you who follow NBA basketball, and especially those of you who are “Lebron Haters,” will say, “Well, it didn’t work. He’s still not a great free throw shooter.” He may not be a great free throw shooter, but his percentages went up over 70% for the next nine years, with seven of those years being above 75%.
The point of the story is that the person who knew best how to help him achieve the success he was seeking was telling him not to think about the result; he was telling him to think about the process.
Applies to All of Us
The same goes for any of us in any endeavor. When we focus on the process that will get us the results we seek, we give our future selves a much better chance of standing at that place where we want to be.
People who want to lose 15 pounds because they don’t like how they look in the mirror shouldn’t focus on the fact that they need to lose 15 pounds. They need to focus on the daily habits it’s going to take to lose those 15 pounds — wake up an hour earlier, drink water, eat a light, healthy snack, work out, eat a healthy lunch, eat a well-balanced dinner before 7:00 pm, etc.
When they focus on each of the steps necessary to achieve the goal, the goal starts to look more like a reality, and pretty soon, it becomes one. They won’t see a 15-pound loss. They will see a 1-pound loss. As they keep focusing on the process, a second and third pound are gone. They start to see a different person staring back at them. Eventually, they find themselves standing on the scale, and they have lost 15 pounds.
And while the goal was always out there, the target was to do the “little things” every day that would end up leading to achieving the goal. The focus was not on the goal — it was on the process to get there.
To use Viktor Frankl’s words, the success ensued.
After the words above in Frankl’s statement about success, he talked about the importance of “one’s dedication to a cause greater than oneself” and “one’s surrender to a person other than oneself” in achieving the success they seek.
When we give ourselves over to a cause that is bigger than ourselves or we surrender to others, that is when a whole different level of success can happen.
Sure, my example earlier of losing weight may fall flat in the face of this concept since the losing of the weight is about “oneself.” But maybe the point is that when we are trying to lose weight, we have a greater cause to feel better about ourselves, be able to stay active and play with our kids, be healthy enough to help other people in some way that we can’t right now, or have the self-confidence to tackle things that we don’t feel we can the way we are feeling because we are overweight. Maybe those are ways that a singularly personal example like losing weight falls into the category of a greater cause.
But there are so many other things that can be considered successes for us that actually do fall under the greater cause and surrendering “to a person other than oneself” that I love the concept.
Surrender the Me for We
As a team sport coach for my whole career, that was a major concept I tried to get our players to buy into. Surrender yourself for the good of the team — “the me for we” as Coach Pat Riley called it.
In any group setting, whenever you have a goal or achievement that would be considered success, like a championship of some sort, it is best to place it out there for people to see and to know what it is. Acknowledge it, discuss it, talk about how nice it would be to achieve it, and maybe post it somewhere for people to see.
Then forget about it.
Because if the goal is what you focus on, chances are you won’t achieve it.
Sure, you can have it in the back of your mind.
But the back of your mind is not where your focus is.
Your focus is what is in the front and center of your mind.
It’s what you zero in on with all of your attention and energy.
And where you should be zeroing in all of your attention and energy is on the steps in the process to get to that goal, not the goal itself.
And when you can get everyone in your organization to do this, the success starts to ensue.
But even more importantly, when you can get everyone in the organization to do this for each other, that’s when the big team and group successes start to ensue. When people start to “give up the me for we” and start zeroing in on helping others with their steps toward success, then everyone’s steps toward success get taken care of along the way. Ultimately, as a by-product of doing all those steps for one another, they set themselves up for the achievement of the team goal that they had set.
I’m not saying that this will guarantee a championship (whatever a championship in your endeavor would be). I’m saying that by focusing on the steps in the process, some type of success will be the result. Anytime you have a lot of variables at play in the ultimate outcome that you seek, like others trying to achieve that thing instead of you, there is always a chance you won’t achieve it.
But look where your journey takes you.
Look who you’ve become in the process.
You will always be a success if you approach life this way.
Because ultimately, in both Frankl’s and Wooden’s definitions of success, you are the only one who can know if you were truly successful in your endeavors. Nobody else can tell you whether or not you were a success. If you focused on doing all the “little things” that you could do to become all that you were capable of becoming and then you did them, you are a success.
That’s the way true success should always be determined.