What’s Success Got To Do With It?

what's success got to do with it

As I sit here writing, it is hot, hot, hot weather outside.

So let me tell you a story instead of complaining. (It’s one you might have read before – but humor me.)

A traveler in the middle ages happens upon a large work site in the center of a village. He had been traveling for many days, and he was eager to talk to anyone who would engage with him.

He walked up to one worker at the site and asked, “Sir, may I ask what you are doing?”

The worker scowled a bit and said tersely, “What does it look like? I am cutting stones.”

The traveler then moved on to a second worker. When he asked the same question, the worker paused for a moment and explained that he was cutting stones so he could support his family whom he loved dearly.

The traveler then spoke to a third worker and asked the same question. The worker put down his tools, stood quite tall, looked the traveler in the eye and said with a warm smile, “I am building a cathedral. It will be the tallest and most magnificent structure for miles around. Its beauty will delight people for centuries to come. I will probably not see the final product, but I know my work is part of something very important.”

I heard this story years ago but it’s been something I’ve been thinking about a lot in my own work and life lately; What am I working for? What is success to me?

So I was especially interested by an opinion piece in a recent Sunday Times by Arthur Brooks.

In it he talks about how in the search for success at work, we often make ourselves miserable. He believes there is a new version of the Peter Principle in which instead of people rising up in their organization and stalling at their level of incompetence, now employees are often rising up and staying at their level of unhappiness – where they no longer enjoy their work.

Why don’t people stop rising when they are happy? Because we are built to think that more is better — more power, authority, money and responsibility. So we incorrectly infer that promotions will equal greater satisfaction.” – Arthur Brooks

If you’re wondering how to find both more success and happiness at work, let’s set up a time to talk. . .

I can tell you that the journey is well worth it!

Jo Ilfeld, PhD

An executive leadership coach, Jo helps C-suite leaders, executives, and high-potential managers develop the flexibility, skill, and frame of mind to meet the challenges of the next five, ten, twenty years…. and beyond. She works with individuals, teams and organizations on four core areas of leadership development. Check out Jo's bio page for more information.

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