ac·com·plish

Verb To achieve or complete successfully.

Synonyms: fulfill, achieve, succeed in, realize, attain, manage, bring about, bring off, carry out, carry off, carry through, execute, conduct, effect, fix, engineer, perform, do, perpetrate, discharge, complete, finish, consummate, conclude

Growing up, I was a competitive swimmer. Always on the team and often the captain, I lived for racing and winning. There was an enormous freedom in gliding through the water; it was the closest thing I could imagine to flying. As I progressed from team to team the emphasis slowly migrated from the joy of swimming to the need for winning. I accumulated medals and trophies along the way and from time to time I would examine my loot. Staring at the shiny metal, it became harder and harder to recreate the joy of that moment of victory, until, at one point, I couldn’t reconstruct it at all. Somehow the experience was just a handful of scattered moments that no longer gave me the thrill that I wanted. The trophies began to look silly.

I spent seven years in the music business, and in that time I heard many of my songs on the radio, was co-producer of top five hits, owned a record company, wrote for a Broadway show and had 17 records on the charts. Lots of accomplishment. The other day the boiler went out and the plumber, in making his way through the basement had to navigate the box of my records in the boiler room. He asked me “What’s all this?”. My answer was “just move that junk out of the way…” At the time of my hits, these were the greatest accomplishments of my life. Now, they were the junk in the boiler room.

So what, exactly, do these accomplishments mean? They don’t seem to have much staying power!  Hitting a homerun, winning that job, reaching the top of a mountain, do they increase our self-esteem? These events and memories are so fragile that when we try to recreate that feeling of triumph, we keep getting diminishing returns. And yet, we invest so much in these achievements.

I think we’ve become so result oriented that we’ve forgotten where the real value lies: not in the accomplishment but in the pursuit. Nothing was so exciting as imagining my songs would be on the radio. Dreaming and scheming and planning and writing, all of this was pure joy. Every step toward it was breathtaking! The trophies may be lying somewhere on the basement floor, but the experience of getting there was everything.  

I do think it’s important to have a goal, something to shoot for, but I don’t believe we need to postpone our happiness til we get there. Let it all enliven you, but live in the passion of pursuit. Be excited now. Accomplishment is the cherry on top of the sunday, but it is not the sunday. The purpose of dreams is to enrich our lives, not to postpone them. So what’s the answer? Win, lose or draw, enjoy every step of the journey and remember, these are tomorrow’s good old days.

Thomas Jones