It’s not just what I heard at that infamous 2022 Golden Globes moment with Chris Rock. But what I saw.
A saw a CRACK in a seemingly successful life.
And while it’s easy to distance ourselves because Will is a famous celebrity, it’s a cause to pause.
Here was one of the world's "most successful" celebrities, on a stage meant to celebrate success, unable to contain the unhealth that had seemingly taken over his life.
Are we so busy upholding a “shell of success” that we neglect the important work of building towards the “substance of success”?
Will Smith, of course, is not alone in "keeping up appearances". We all do it.
From young, our pictures of success are determined by others.
“Look at their grades”.
“Wow! They scored so many goals”.
“She is so pretty”.
“He is so hot”.
“They are so smart”
“They speak so well…etc”
As we grow older, those pictures of success become more multifaceted and complex.
Not just learn in school, but also get 90%+ in exams.
Not just strong in academics, but also in extracurriculars.
Not just a good high paying job, but have one that is fulfilling and impactful.
Not just have a place of shelter, but also multiple investment properties.
Not just have a business, but a multi-million dollar business.
Not just be the best version of yourself, but also have a partner and kids who can do no wrong.
We are like moths to the latest flame. To the limelight. To the highlight reel. To wherever the light shines the brightest, is the new facet of success we somehow need to incorporate into our already full picture of success.
Before we know it, we are struggling to hold together these pictures of success.
We climb one mountain, only to be told there's another one we have done yet. And so we continue to climb because we feel like we have no other choice. We're exhausted.
For some, this leads to that big public crack, ala Will Smith or countless "fallen" celebrities you read about in the news.
For others, the big crack hasn't yet happened but the damage has already begun. There are leaks. Leaks that are hurting you and the people (especially your loved one) around you.
I’m a case in point.
Outwardly people saw my shell of success.
Awards. Promotions. Speaking confidence. Strategic solutions. Spiritual achievements. Skill sets.
Here’s what they didn’t see.
Someone who was afraid of failing in front of others and used perfectionism as a way to protect himself.
Someone who was afraid of becoming useless and was engaged in pornography and high performance activities to feel like he was valued, wanted and in demand.
Someone who was afraid of rejection and pleased and “honored” people rather than have necessary difficult conversations.
I remember a moment in the midst of significant traveling for work when I had the opportunity to go and surprise my wife and kids who were holidaying on the other side of the world. I however gave in to a church leader’s guilt trip that I needed to be present at our weekend service so it wouldn’t look bad. Instead of aligning to a core desire of mine to become a dad and husband of presence, I gave in.
I look back at that moment often as a reminder of my misaligned life. It may not have looked like a crack because from outside, people saw someone who was responsible and committed to God and church. But it was a leak that signaled to me that something was off. And those who paid the ultimate price for my success and the applause I received were the people who were dearest to me: my wife and kids.
What are some signs of leakage?
Here are some top indicators I found from the leaders and individuals I work with. I invite you to take go through this list honestly and see what resonates:
I know that my team/colleagues would do anything for me, but I’m not sure that those who see the real me (eg my partner, kids) would
I am not comfortable being alone for too long because I suspect there may be hard truths and confronting questions that surface and I will be found to be a fraud, imposter or inauthentic
I spend unnecessary time on producing perfect work because deep down it is a way of deflecting people from seeing that I feel inadequate and not good enough
I return to habits and and patterns of behaviors to help me get through times when I feel “less than” (eg binge eating, binge watching, overexercising, hyperfocus on my appearance, pornography, unwanted sexual behaviors, overdrinking)
I can’t help but pursue the next shiny object, gadget, fad, revelation, mountain, etc because I’m afraid that others will overtake me and I will be seen as less valuable
I find it hard to exercise self control, establish boundaries and care for myself
I regret actions where I hurt others or myself in the past but I don’t have time to uncover why and if I’m really honest, I don’t really want to think about it
What will you do about the leaks?
I didn’t wait for a Will Smith moment.
I decided to do something about the leaks that pointed to deeper structural issues in my life.
I know my story is not the famous celebrity who cracked and had to make a change.
I rather see myself as someone with a “shell of success” who leaked and chose to make a change.
“What we don’t transform, we transfer” - Richard Rohr
My dear fellow life traveler.
Don’t wait for a Will Smith moment.
Pay attention to the leaks in your life.
You and your loved ones are too valuable to do nothing about it.
Over To You
1. What picture(s) of success did you grow up with?
2. Of the 7 signs of leaking I listed, which ones can you relate to?
I've love to hear what's on your mind, whether a thought or a question. I read all emails and will respond as appropriate. Message me email@example.com
Pay it forward.
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Let’s live whole,
p.s. So what do you do, James? Here’s the crux of it. I help people avoid their Will Smith moment. And not only that. I propel people to a whole new life of success they didn’t know was possible. This is my calling. If you want to take serious action beyond reading, set up a time here and we will have a conversation about options to get you moving on a new trajectory starting now.
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