What is Success for Men?

James Anthony Ellis

EDITOR’S NOTE: At the Legacy Magazine, we gather success stories of men living a successful life. And we will keep these in archive to remind men of what is available to them, as long as they persevere, gain clarity and take the steps on their path. In honor of the newest digital online “room” within this Living Legacy Project – The Chamber of Success – the editor takes a stab at defining this ambiguous concept.

After 50-plus years as a male, after a few decades pushing for the elusive happiness in my career, relationships and health choices, and finally after spending 25 years in a men’s organization focused on successful families, careers and communities in a man’s life, I am now ready to proclaim my clear definition of what “success” means for men…

And here it is: Fuck if I know!

I mean “success?”

  • Is it in your wallet?
  • Is it in your photo album?
  • Is it in your contact list?
  • Is it in your trophy and medal collection?
  • Is it in your two-car garage?
  • Is it the number of etches in your headboard?
  • Is it a number of toys – boats, collectibles, clothes, paintings – filling up a palatial empire?
  • Or is it in a peaceful state of mind?
  • In some unknown part of you that just knows?
  • Is it in your gut?

Perhaps the answer to all the above is “yes.” For it just may be that every man has a different definition of success for him.

For me, when I consider success, I think of author and mythologist Joseph Campbell and his Power of Myth interview series. It was in this 1985 series with Bill Moyers that Campbell uttered his now famous line: “Follow your bliss.”

To quote from that series: “If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Wherever you are — if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time.”

I must admit I do recognize times when I’m on this sort of track and when I am off that track. When I’m not on track, I feel agitated, purposeless, directionless, like I’m wasting time. The thought of “I don’t have enough time” also arises in my mind. It feels like there is no hope in what I’m doing, and even if I would make apparent strides along this path, it would be ultimately meaningless. Whether it’s a business venture, a potential project, a writing gig, a meetup with acquaintances, the activity either holds promise and purpose or it doesn’t. When it doesn’t, there is a slight emptiness to it; when it does hold promise, it carries a liveliness within. All of the sudden I’m on track and there is enough time. All at once there is a sense of pending bliss.

If my memory serves me, Campbell also made the remark that some people get off their track and stop following their bliss in order to make money.

I imagine the opposite could also be true. If one follows his bliss in life, perhaps the money will follow as well.

For my first documentary – on child sex trafficking – I produced the entire 33-minute piece for a non-profit and wasn’t paid a penny. However a few months before its release, I received some major funding from the San Diego County Office of Education.

For my second documentary – on supporting law enforcement with PTSD – I started off with about one year of being ignored by officers, sergeants and chiefs. I didn’t quit on the process and produced the piece on a shoe-string budget. I did a bit of crowdfunding, received precisely my goal, and felt on track with a life purpose of supporting emotional, mental and spiritual health to others. Unplanned by me, but perhaps planned on some other realm, this documentary led to three large state grants – from POST, an agency that provides training for officers statewide.

These experiences showed me that if I followed my gut and my creative muse and took action on it, I would be rewarded in various ways: first and foremost with a sense of purpose, and secondly with compensation that would make the effort financially worthwhile.

When I look deeper, I do see this sort of divine play happen routinely. Perhaps it’s a kind and just universe in the end.

As another example, when did the current Miami Dolphin Coach Mike McDaniel know that he would make it in the NFL?

“I think I knew when i was working a ton of hours as an intern and I wasn’t making any money, and i was excited to go to work. I knew it was the right path for me. Because I knew for me to have a shot to reach any life goals or expectations for myself, I’d have to be passionate about what I was doing.”

So are we on the track or not? Following our bliss or not?

I believe those NOT on the track will have that constant feeling of never being able to do or be enough. They’ll believe they are undervalued and unappreciated by coworkers and significant others. They will be agitated, edgy, and then snappy with close ones who appear to be “stealing” their time from them.

Those aware and brave enough to take their soul’s journey will have all the time they need. They will be happy. They will appreciate those loved ones nearby.

They will be walking a higher purpose path.

They will experience impending bliss.

And they will be successful.

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