What does success mean to you? This is an important question you should answer before you start anything new; whether it be a business, a ministry, an exercise regime, or even writing a book. Before you begin, sit down and define success. Most of the lessons I’ve learned in life have been through trial, error, and pain– which isn’t the only way to learn. The best way to learn is through other’s experiences, the preferred method by far! I decided to write this article in the hopes that I will spare you some tears in your pursuit of success.
When I began my first business, I was so excited because I truly believed it would be successful. I had a great idea, the support of my family, and an eager heart to get started – sparing no cost mind you! My business, Witness thru Fitness, designed workout wear with a Christian message. I was inspired to start this venture after running my first marathon. At around mile 17, I found myself in a bad place; hurting, wanting to quit, and questioning my sanity for paying for this torture. In the middle of my despair, I looked up and noticed the shirt of the woman in front of me. Written with a black felt tip marker, it said “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I needed that reminder! It kept my feet going when I wanted to quit and instead of defeat I got to experience the joy of victory when I crossed the finish line. As soon as I got home I started thinking about how I could help others by designing shirts with God’s word on the back to encourage them the way I had been.
I found out early on that the road to success is uphill. The cost of purchasing shirts as well as the fees required to set up booth space at marathons and health fairs kept me barely breaking even. On top of that, it seemed like everything that could go wrong, did. I was disappointed and disillusioned that my very good intentions brought me nothing but grief. I was lamenting to my friend Pam about how I regretted my decision to start Witness thru Fitness because I believed I had failed. Instead of financial bliss, I was in a credit card nightmare, pretty much paying for people to wear my shirts. Why weren’t my long hours, hard work, and endurance being rewarded if I was on the right track? She gently reminded me of the many emails I had received from those who had purchased my shirts.
One of them was from a man who was at ground zero during the 9-11 tragedy. He went to minister and encourage the firefighters and first responders at a chapel service held in the days following the terrorist attacks. In his e-mail he said that he didn’t even think about the shirt he wore that day until he took it off that evening. To his delight he said he chose a Witness thru Fitness shirt he had purchased from me that said, “But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.” 2 Chronicles 15:7. He told me he believed that God dressed him that morning! In the face of an evil attack on our country, many people were reminded through God’s word (even on the back of a shirt) to be strong and not to give up because their work would be rewarded. My desire to encourage others like I had been during my first marathon had occurred! Pam brought it to my attention how successful I was because that was why I started Witness thru Fitness in the first place. I wasted a lot of time beating myself up for being a failure when I all along I was doing exactly what I had set out to do. By not clearly defining what success meant to me, I was blinded from seeing the blessings all around me. My financial situation didn’t change overnight but my attitude and perspective did. God promises that if we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, then everything else we need will be added. There is nothing wrong with wanting financial blessings (the Good Samaritan needed money to be generous) but don’t let your joy be stolen by allowing that to be your only barometer for success.
This past year, I’ve had the opportunity to practice what I preach when I decided to write a book about faith, trust and endurance. I didn’t want to make the mistake I previously made with Witness Thru Fitness by not defining success so I made a list before I began:
- To inspire others to greatness by encouraging them to trust God’s plan for their life.
- To leave a legacy that will last for generations to come
- To add value to others
- To speak life to those who need reminders as much as I do
- To encourage others to not give up or give in to discouragement
When my book, Press On, was published this year, I was overjoyed by the response of readers and the many emails I received letting me know how my book has helped, inspired and encouraged them. I did what I set out to do!
The moment my book helped another person, I became aware and thankful of my success – A type of success that can never be taken. From here on out, everything else will be icing on the cake.
What does success mean to you?