Jake has been my best friend since birth. He’s that friend, the one I’d bleed for—and as scars would attest, I have. Even though we now live in separate states, we haven’t allowed the distance to separate our friendship.
Our pastime is eggs and bacon. That’s what we do.
And if there’s one thing about our breakfast summits, the eggs are always served with a side of truth. We hold nothing back. We can’t. The reality of a great friendship is that there’s no sugary coating or pretty mask to cover up our flaws. When Jake and I are together, it’s raw and it’s real—the way a friendship should be.
In a world that has become obsessed with facades and faux personas, these times refresh my soul.
Jake and his family recently vacationed about an hour south of where I live. Although our schedules didn’t allow our families to get together, we made sure to work in a Friday morning breakfast. It was just like old times—just the two of us. Little did I know our conversation that morning would expose one of my life’s greatest struggles and a sneaking suspicion behind success for all of us.
Equating Approval and Success
I begin most mornings by locking myself away in my writing room, punching keys in an attempt to bring life to the ideas that are running circles through my head. But despite my efforts, I’m plagued by the ever-present question: Why are so many of my closest friends apathetic toward my dream?
What most creatives don’t admit is that Facebook likes and Twitter retweets are as addictive as crack-cocaine. There’s a constant battle to determine our success based on the acceptance of others. And if we’re honest, the acceptance of those who know us best seems to matter the most.
Despite the fact that my blog crossed 400,000 readers and my book has sold more than 2,500 copies, my best friend Jake hasn’t subscribed or even purchased a copy of my book, Redefine Rich. Deep down, in the places I refused to write about, that hurt. As the pain grew, it gave way to fear. I started thinking about all of the friends—high school teammates, college buddies, work associates—who don’t seemed to care about my newfound passion.
As I feed my fear, it leads to doubt. Doubt becomes insecurity.
Maybe I shouldn’t be writing after all.
Maybe my dream isn’t that important anyway.
Those voices might sound silly to an outsider, but that’s the internal crap we listen to, isn’t it?
Two Eggs with a Side of Truth
On this particular Friday morning, after we’d covered life and family and careers, Jake asked how things were going. I immediately knew what he was referring to. He’d asked me before in passing conversation, but this was different. For the past two years, I’d been secretly upset that he hadn’t shown much interest. Here was the moment of truth.
I admitted that one of the hardest things for me was wondering what he thought.
I told him I’d recently read that success is “striving so that those who know you the best respect you the most.” According to that definition, I didn’t feel very successful as a writer. Without hesitation he replied, “That just somebody’s opinion, dude.”
Then, he told me exactly what I needed to hear.
“You clearly have an audience because your stuff is doing great. But that’s not why you began writing. You began writing because it was something you felt like you had to do. You’re clearly helping people, but don’t think that everyone is in your audience. Quit trying to please me. Focus on what your audience wants and give them more of that.”
He was right.
Too often, we determine success based on external measures instead of internal convictions. In turn, successes becomes quantifiable. We let the size of our platform instead of the impact of our message to determine our value. If everyone else validates what we do, then we’re a success.
But curiously, this doesn’t just apply to our passions and gifts, it applies to our wealth, our businesses, and our relationships as well. As a result, we live shackled to approval instead of free to become who we were created to be.
A Different Measure of Success
There is a real danger in living life based on the approval of others because if we’re not careful, we leverage those around us for what we desire most. When we begin leveraging people for our own gratification—using them for our validation—we become pawns to our own pride. You see this in addicts who rob the family they love to feed their destructive habits. If we’re not careful, we’ll do the same.
Jake reminded me that success isn’t always measured by the approval of those who are closest to us. Success is measured by our willingness to hold true to our deepest convictions and pour everything we have into it, regardless of what everyone else says.
If it takes strong coffee, good eggs, a great friend, and an honest conversation to remind us of these things, I’d say that’s a breakfast of champions.
If you struggle with the opinions of others and you’re looking for honest encouragement and accountability, contact us regarding our mentoring services.
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About the Author:
Matt Ham helps people discover a new perspective on life. He reminds us of the things we know, but often forget. It begins with the perspective that your whole life matters. Through stories that inspire hope, Matt provides perspective-shifting wisdom that will help you in your faith, your family, and your career.
His first book, Redefine Rich, is available under a limited-edition, hardback release at www.redefinerich.com