The opposite of success isn’t losing. It’s not failure. Or loss.
The opposite of success is apathy. Not caring.
But it hurts to care. It’s painful to want to be successful and end up in a different place.
It’s hard to believe that you’re meant for a bigger purpose, but not be able to achieve the results you envision.
Just know that losing isn’t the worst position to be in. The worst position in which to find yourself is when you have stopped caring.
When you stop trying.
When you give in to passive aggression and making excuses.
When you stop daring to lay it all on the line in the hopes that it won’t hurt so bad if you end up not being successful.
Something happens to us as adults where we begin to mask apathy as wisdom. It’s a devilish thing — trying to pretend that caring is a sign of immaturity and weakness.
And in a certain sense, it’s not wrong.
When you’re young and naive, you care about everything. It matters when you turn the lights out at night, the color of the icing on your birthday cake, and what your friends at school think about you.
You don’t have to be a parent for long to find yourself in these sort of amusingly absurd conversations — with a child in tears weeping genuinely about a part of their life that seems to make no sense.
Yet for them it is important. It is critical. It’s something they care about. In that moment, deeply.
It was Helen Keller who said that “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.”
Maybe she would have changed her mind had she been able to see.
But her perspective still rings powerfully true.
Before you see success, you feel it. Before you hear about great outcomes, you already feel them.
Even if you’re not an especially intuitive person, you can tell by someone’s expression or how their eyes look away from you quickly how they feel about you.
You feel it. You can’t explain it, but you know it to be true.
Think about how miserable and misguided your life would be if you weren’t able to feel these things.
So why turn that off when it comes to your pursuit of success? Why stop yourself from feeling the misery of setbacks and not getting to where you want to be?
Peter Bregman and his powerful book on leadership, Leading With Emotional Courage: How to Have Hard Conversations, Create Accountability, And Inspire Action On Your Most Important Work, wrote that “leaders need to feel, even when they don’t enjoy the feelings they feel.”
The same as true for you.
You can’t truly appreciate triumph until you’re vulnerable enough to experience the discomfort and sadness that comes with losing along the way.
Feel it. Feel it all.
You don’t have to enjoy it. But it’s better than feeling nothing.
It is those feelings of loss and discomfort that enable you to make the hard decisions that ultimately lead to successful outcomes. Remember that.
When you’re feeling like nothing is ever going to be good again, ask yourself what’s wrong.
And then be honest enough to make the hard changes that progress demands.
Regardless of how you feel.