I love success stories, rags to riches stories - they keep hope alive in each of us, and hope is so important. I watched a recent Oprah interview with the very private Ralph Lauren, founder of the prolific Polo brand, and I was inspired. Amazing talent, strong successful brand, happy family and a beautiful expansive ranch where he lives a simple and authentic life.
The beauty of this story is emphasized by the fact that his parents were Russian immigrants. He made it through passion, hard work and sheer determination. But it is not enough to succeed. Many people achieve success and remain unhappy. One of my leadership mentors from the Aspen Institute told of a dinner with one of the world's most powerful leaders (now retired). He seemed really low in spirit and when they engaged in a candid conversation the world leader revealed that he had great regrets about his tenure and his life. He carries these regrets with him as the world continues to perceive him as an accomplished and successful man. He feels like a failure.
This brings me back to the word authentic. True... Real... Not to others, but to yourself. How does one live an authentic life? My advise to young and old alike is simple... Get in touch with your inner child. We are most authentic as children. Open, honest and real. Our gifts and passions are most obvious when we are children, before the world beats them out of us or convinces us to do away with our talents, our hopes and dreams.
Ralph Lauren lives a real cowboy life and when asked by Oprah whether he always wanted to be a cowboy he explained he wanted to be everything, a cowboy, a baseball player, a basketball player...I was totally stunned and delighted when he went on to say, "I wanted to be Batman! The ability to stay young... The ability to enjoy what you enjoyed when you were a kid. Not to give up the hope and the excitement is important."
That life is a gift is no doubt. We should then live it with all the hopes and dreams we can. Live it to the full. Try, try and try again and keep the hope and energy and love for life alive. How can one start? Try to remember who you were then, what you loved, what you wanted from life and write these things down. And then look into yourself and ask, am I where I should be?
You might find that you have some very interesting answers to that question.