Big lessons often come to me in dramatic form, sometimes from painful events in my life. At the beginning of this year, I was hit in the head with my own surfboard, blood gushing down my face... and this began the big wake-up call that shifted the way I achieve success in life.
“The struggle you're in today is developing the strength you need for tomorrow.” ~Unknown
I'm an Emmy Award nominated television producer from Los Angeles. A type-A driven, push, push, push to succeed kind of person with a consistently-reinventing-myself mentality and an always-striving-to-improve kind of ethos in life. But after my surfing accident, I had to stop. While getting my forehead stitched up at the emergency room, I got a tetanus shot which strangely (yet serendipitously) caused an autoimmune response to bring about the devastating, degenerative disease rheumatoid arthritis. It became a matter of life or death to stop pushing so hard in life. I didn’t have a choice. I was forced to become what felt to me as "lazy."
“This life event that forced me to stop the relentless, almost compulsive, driven work pace (that I mistook for "work ethic"), made me sit back for the first time and allow life to just happen.”
Forced to stop the relentless, almost compulsive, driven work pace (that I mistook for "work ethic"), made me sit back for the first time and allow life to just happen. This is where I experienced a truly miraculous shift. For the first time, I was just "being." I was not trying to be anything or do anything; I was just being... and that became enough, just to be.
This gave me the time, the space, and the impetus to contemplate the lifelong way I've always strived toward success.
Raised in a Chinese-American family, I was taught to be diligent, productive, to keep pushing beyond my reach for success. This push did seem to work for most of my life, but now I had to examine the reason behind this push.
“We think mistakenly that success is the result of the amount of the time we put in at work, instead of the quality of the time we put in.” ~Arianna Huffington, How To #thrive
My dad escaped the Chinese Revolution in 1949, sent away by his family at 14 years old to seek fortune in the U.S. Finding a job as a busboy in Michigan, he diligently shared his paycheck to support his family in China, which he continued to do even as he was supporting his own family here in the U.S.
My siblings and I grew up in what felt like a life of poverty. At one point I had only two shirts--one to wash and one to wear. And one year was shocked to realize we were eating Christmas dinner at a "soup kitchen." It may not have been that desperate for my entire childhood, but there was always a feeling of financial struggle for my parents who had six children to support.
At 19 years old, I found myself in a difficult situation, raising my younger brother and sister, while paying the mortgage and household bills when my parents divorced.
I dropped out of college to support my family by working as a hairstylist, and without a college degree or journalism experience, worked my way into the television news business. I started at the bottom cleaning the kitchen at Extra entertainment show, then moved on to CBS2 in Los Angeles as a production assistant. I worked my way up the corporate ladder. I experienced and witnessed a life of wealth, success, and notoriety when I worked at NBC4 News and nearly married into a Hollywood family.
Through the years, I have taken to heart that this is the land of opportunity (especially growing up in L.A.) with the notion that any of us can reach for the stars and become rich and famous, or achieve any goal if we work hard enough.
“Over time our society’s notion of success has been reduced to money and power.” ~Arianna Huffington, How To #thrive
“And yet we spend so much time, effort and energy on those resume entries--entries that lose significance as soon as our heart stops beating.” ~Arianna Huffington, How To #thrive
So where does the laziness come in? Sitting back to think deeply on my health, and ultimately what mattered to me in life, this ideal of achieving success shifted. Now instead of achievement, money, and accolades, I considered what kind of impact I am going to leave on this world, the impact on my family, on my community, and on women in this world. That's ultimately what mattered. Rather than striving for success, the awareness of what I was going to leave here on earth actually connected me to my purpose in life more strongly. I knew I needed to be healthy to fulfill this divine calling, which is for a purpose greater than myself.
“The difference between what such success looks like and what truly makes us thrive isn't always clear as we’re living our lives.” ~Arianna Huffington, How To #thrive
For the first time in my life, I only did the essentials. I had to say "no" to most invitations. And for the first time in my life, I didn't feel guilty for turning down people and opportunities. Surprisingly in this down-time of healing, this new and relaxed energy brought interesting projects into my life that felt just right with this new pace of life.
I saw that this way of life was actually more productive and more efficient. By focusing on only what really mattered, I wasn't pulled in multiple directions. I had to streamline and create systems to be more efficient with my limited energy. I also had to find other women I could rely on (not naturally being someone to ask for help). I felt a clarity and focus, and was more purposefully directed. This type of confident, focused energy brought about more "success" than I had seen in the last few years trying to push toward my goals on my own.
“This type of confident focused energy brought about more "success" than I had seen in the last few years trying to push toward my goals.”
This focus brought me more in tune with my gut level intuition. I now base decisions on what “feels right,” rather than what logically makes sense. I had witnessed this kind of feminine intuition used by some mentors in the past, and saw how well it worked for them. When I worked at NBC, the station general manager and the news director were both women. I watched my news director stop to make major decisions by closing her eyes and feeling for the right answer. The station had the highest morale and the highest ratings in years, I believe due to these women allowing their feminine intuition to lead the way. Employees felt recognized for their hard work; they felt respected, rewarded with cappuccino Fridays, NBC schwag, and free movie ticket giveaways. These women led with heart, with feel, with intuition--and success followed.
“Especially important when you’re being asked to make any important decisions... be sure to take some time to sit with your intuition and look inside yourself for the answers before you choose which path to take.” ~ Jack Canfield
Of course, you can't really be “Lazy” if you are naturally a “Type-A” personality, but changing my motivation changed where I am coming from in business and in life, which changes the way I go about achieving “success” now.
My new way of life is to allow things to come to me instead of being in pursuit of success. I allow myself time to feel into if a decision or action is right for me and my family in the moment. If the door of opportunity swings wide open then I take a step forward. I bring my energy and focus to see it through. If along the way something doesn't feel smooth or joyful, I stop to feel if I need to pivot in a different direction. I check in to feel if it is too early to proceed and needs more time to mature. I've found that intuition is also a sense of timing--waiting for other factors to line up just right proves to be more successful than steam-rolling ahead to try to make things happen.
Life feels easier, life feels joyful, life feels fulfilling, and it feels just right. One could say this feeling is the achievement of success.
Recovery Method for A Type-A Personalities - The “Lazy” Success Model
- Examine and modify your “productivity level.” Allow yourself to just be, letting go of that compulsive push to do it all and allowing yourself to feel the value of your existence without having to do anything.
- Examine the reasons why you have been in pursuit of success, the emotional reasons beneath the achievement of money, status, identity, material wealth, etc.
- Decide to resist FOMO (fear of missing out) on opportunities.
- Stop to “feel” rather than “think” before you say yes to something. Does it feel energizing and uplifting or does it feel draining?
- Determine where you can simplify and focus on only the things that truly matter in your life.
- Identify resources and people who can support you in your goals and to whom you can delegate tasks.
- Reach out and ask for help from these support people and utilize the resources you have around you.
- Create systems and procedures in your daily life to stop the continual need to reinvent every day, systems that will make your life easier so you can put your energy where it matters.
- Choose to wait for the door of opportunity to open, rather than actively pursuing “success.”
- Determine if the prospect or project aligns with your predetermined goals and life purpose before giving energy to it.
- Assess if your project needs a change in direction if it does not continue to feel “easy” or revise time-line expectations to allow other factors to line up.
- Accept the value of who you are by just existing on this planet.