Leader.co.za - Management, Training and Career Advice for Business Leaders

01 MARCH 2012
What 3 things make a successful life?

by Alan Hosking: Publisher of HR Future, South Africa's human strategy magazine, and a Leadership Renewal Coach for senior executives.

There are three requirements for happiness and success. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people mistakenly chase after only one of the three and find, later in life and to their regret, that they failed to focus on the other two. This results in disappointment, regret and bitterness.

If you want to achieve true happiness, you have to focus on three things – your health, your relationships and your finances, and I have deliberately put them in that order for a number of reasons.

Your number one form of wealth is your health. When we’re young, most of us take our health for granted. We’re strong and bullet proof and are never going to get sick, get old or die. That’s for other people - or so we think. Unfortunately, though, our bodies are subject to the same principles and laws that govern every physical object in the universe.

Build a magnificent mansion with the finest materials. Then, once it is finished, just leave it – in other words, don’t maintain it. Granted, it will take a number of years, but the mansion will at some stage start to show cracks in the walls and eventually over time fall apart. Every homeowner knows that that’s the way things work, like it or not.

The same applies to our physical bodies. Without the proper care and maintenance, they will just start falling apart – failing to look as good as they could and perform as they should. And when that happens, we lose the most important form of wealth we could ever have – our health. What’s the point of having R50 million in the bank if you’re too weak or too ill to get out of bed? Look after your body and your mind so that you can do the many things required to build the other forms of wealth for you to live a happy and active life to a ripe old age!

The second requirement for success lies in building good relationships. This starts with our family relationships and expands to our circle of friends, colleagues, clients, customers and acquaintances. We were not meant to live in the forests alone, so it’s important for us to work hard at maintaining good relationships with those around us.

These relationships contribute to our personal and career success because few people succeed when they are not able to get on with other people. We have no influence in the lives of people with whom we have no relationship. If you want to have influence in people’s lives – to consult to them, to sell to them or for any other reason, you’ve got to build a good relationship with them.

Relationships become important to some people only when it’s too late. Don’t let that happen to you. One of the items on the list of top 10 regrets of old or dying people is that they never spent more time with their families. This shows a realisation that they have not succeeded in the area of their relationships, causing much regret.

I often encounter highly successful executives who can buy what ever their eye sees because they have believed that financial success is the only form of success there is, and they made sure that they became successful – financially. Yet, their families are dysfunctional – they don’t like their wives or their children and the feeling is mutual, simply because they have never spent much time building warm and close relationships with them. These men are sad, bitter people with no hope for the future, despite all their money.

During a conversation with the HR Director of a large multinational company about the leadership renewal programme that I conduct for senior executives, I was explaining how some people define success in a narrow way in that they believe it’s only about money. He then made a very interesting comment.

He said, “I’m going to refer a friend of mine to you. He is so wealthy that not even his grandchildren have to work, but he is the most miserable person I know. He really needs help.”

Consumerism and materialism have brainwashed us into thinking that we will only be happy if we buy this product or use that service. Everyone selling something tries to convince us that success and happiness lie in buying what they offer. But all the possessions in the world cannot make up for the lack of relationships with your partner, your children, your friends and others. Work at your relationships if you want true success!

The third requirement for success is money. But, while money is important, it is only one of the three things that are required for happiness. That is why it is important to get the other two right as well.

There are some, though, who make the mistake of thinking that money is bad and that if they acquire money, they will be taking it away from someone else. This is a false belief and should be exposed as such. The only time you acquire money by taking it from someone else is when you steal it from them. If you acquire more money by providing value in return, you are making the world a better place and benefiting at the same time. People who operate in this way deserve to benefit and indeed do.

The much-referred-to Bill Gates is a case in point. We all know what he did for the world – it’s thanks to him that I could write this editorial – and look at how he benefited as a result. More importantly, though, look at how he is using his wealth to help the less privileged. That’s because he understands that the lowest form of success is to be blessed, while the highest form of success is to be a blessing to others!
Useful resources:

HR Future
HR Future is South Africa's only independent, most forward thinking human resource magazine with the richest content wealth of HR related issues on the continent of Africa to help executives recruit, manage, train, reward and retain the best talent. Visit our InfoCentre or website.

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