The Joy of Working Toward Success

Feb. 1, 2015
Sometimes the effort put into reaching our greatest potential is more rewarding than the ultimate achievement

I have a white board behind my desk and an insatiable desire to fill it with quotes that force me to cradle my chin between my thumb and forefinger and go, “Hmmmm.” 

They remain there until I find the next, even more profound quote that almost always seems to magically appear just in time to shed a bit of wisdom on an otherwise impossibly chaotic and baffling existence. 

The present quote reads, “Stress is an outcome.” 

The quote itself suggests that stress is a byproduct of the choices we’ve made and the often unrealistic expectations we attach to them. I didn’t find it in a book or magazine article. It came from the wife of a colleague and former shop owner.

It’s on the board to remind me that all too often we choose stress over the countless other options we may have even when recognizing the pain and discomfort that can accompany it. It’s about to be replaced by another quote, encountered while watching an episode of the HBO documentary series State of Play, hosted by Peter Berg. 

The new quote was offered by Shawn Achor, former Harvard professor, author of “The Happiness Advantage,” CEO of Goodthink Inc., and a participant in a very intense panel discussion that followed the documentary. Achor attributed the quote to the ancient Greeks, who he said defined happiness as “the joy experienced while striving toward your (greatest) potential.” 

Wrap your head around that for a minute. Roll it around inside your brain the same way you would wash a really good red wine across your palate. The subtle nuances experienced while enjoying that new red can be a pretty powerful metaphor for savoring each word in a quote that resonates for you like this one did for me. But, unlike a “good” red wine, a quote like the one above has the potential to change your life. 

This particular quote forced me to stop a moment and contemplate what makes me happy—where in life I’ve found my joy. It forced me to consider when and where I’ve experienced true happiness. And, what followed was profound. I’ve been happiest and most joyful when working hard, working tirelessly, working way outside my comfort zone. I’ve been the most satisfied when I’ve pushed myself to the limit, when I’ve pushed myself to establish new limits, not afterward.

I’ve been most consumed while pursuing goals that everyone around me insisted were impossible, when the feeling of being completely immersed in a project transcended the momentary satisfaction of achieving it.

As another example, my son is an Ironman, a special kind of triathlete. I’ve written about him and his commitment to his sport before. He trains constantly and with the same intensity he brings to each competition. If you asked him, he would tell you the joy he finds in his sport comes from the pursuit of the best he is capable of, from constantly pushing himself to find and challenge that “best.”

The joy comes from the hundreds of hours spent training and the relationships he builds with coaches, teammates and fellow competitors—the bond he develops with everyone crazy enough to attempt the seemingly impossible.

When you think about it, everyone seriously involved in the auto service profession is in pursuit of personal excellence in one way or another, no different than my son, his teammates or anyone else involved in an endeavor in which training, effort and personal sacrifice are involved. Certainly, our battle to keep up with the technological sophistication of today’s vehicles more than qualifies.

But, if that’s the case, you have to ask yourself why more people who do what you and I do seem to be anything but happy or joyful. Why  have so many seemingly abandoned the pursuit of their greatest potential, settling instead for something far less? 

Mitch Schneider is a fourth-generation auto repair professional and the owner of Schneider’s Auto Repair in Simi Valley, Calif. He is an industry educator, author, seminar facilitator, and blogger at Contact him at [email protected].

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