The Secret to Success You’ve Been Looking For – Delivered From my Grandfather

The Secret to Success You’ve Been Looking For –  Delivered From my Grandfather 

If you’re like me, you may find yourself at points in your life when you look around and wondering if you’ve set on the right path. I’ve found myself asking questions like, ‘Am I in the right career?’, ‘Have I been making the best of the cards that I have been dealt?’, ‘Am I happy with the values that my husband and I are using to raise our kids?’, and the question of all questions, ‘Am I enough?’.

It feels a little dark to stare these questions straight in the face, sure. But I know I am not alone in feeling like I missed the instruction manual on adulthood. I have a career that is on it’s way, a beautiful family that has so much to offer this world, and I have found myself to be a woman that is strong and confident in my beliefs. I contemplate all of these things when I get to that place of needing self reflection.

Recently, when writing one of my blog posts, I incorporated into my post an NPR initiative, Story Corp. It gave me the idea to sit down with my grandfather to talk to him about his career. I would be lying if I said that it was about spending quality time with him. Frankly, I am ashamed to admit that I thought it would make an excellent blog post. But what I got from our conversation was so much more. My grandpa is eleven years retired after an amazing career as real estate executive for a fortune 500 company. He shook hands with Governors and world leaders, he brought hundreds of jobs to communities not just around the country, but around the world.

I was so excited to potentially hear about some of his stories. I came up with a list of questions that would help me to see the path that he took and the achievements he made in his career. I asked about specific projects, achievements, failures.

Words of Wisdom 

My grandpa answered all of my questions, but he didn’t tell me a single story of nailing a big contract or leading an important meeting.

Everything my grandpa said was about the people he worked with. It was about the things he did for his co-workers, and the things his bosses did for him. He said his greatest achievement was a project in which he moved the company headquarters, a project that directly impacted everyone he worked with on a daily basis. He got a lot of recognition, and every day he was able to see the positive impact he made for his co-workers. He told me a little bit about his good managers, and frankly, he spent a lot of time talking about the difficulties he had in dealing with his bad managers.

When I asked my grandpa what projects he worked on that he would hope is still being done today, he said he didn’t care. He immediately went on to tell me that he goes back to the office from time to time to take his old secretary out to lunch. He told me that he hangs his head to see that each time he goes into the office there are fewer and fewer familiar faces.

The Secret of Success

This conversation took place a few weeks ago. I have written about five drafts of this post and none of them have felt right, until now. I think I was struggling because it felt like his answers didn’t match the tone of my questions. But as I sit back and think about it, the truth is not that his answers didn’t match my questions, it’s that my questions didn’t match what success really means. When writing my questions, I was assuming that success is about the gold star projects and a great impact on the bottom line.

But it’s not.

What I learned from my grandpa’s answers, from his story, is that it’s the impact our achievements make on people that creates success. Your career, your life, is a collection of moments and achievements that build relationships, create your reputation, and eventually your success.

I have realized that the answers to whether you are on the road of success are not going to be found by pointing at a specific stage or time of your life. Rather, I am now thinking about what it truly means to say that success is a journey. The wisdom that might hold the answer to success is not a destination, it’s an unending process that builds up over time, day by day.

As a professional, as a mom, and as a wife I have moments that I rock. I have days that I know are defining towards the ultimate goal of success, whatever that looks like. But just as importantly, I have days that I mess up. I have days that I lose myself in the daily grind and say something heartless to my husband. I have days that I snub my kids because I am reading my work e-mails after dinner. I’m starting to see that there is no end point to this journey of life. There is no right and wrong, rather than a collection of moments that are carried out to build yourself up as a person. And to create your family as a strong unit of support to live your life with.

In talking with my grandpa, I was able to see that the tasks don’t matter, the deadlines and skipped lunch hours don’t matter. It’s this process of building relationships that you will talk and reminisce when talking about your success, even long after retirement.


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