I lead a great life! How about you?
Not every single day in my life has been perfect; far from it. But I consider I was gifted with something that helps me endure the hard times, as well as tremendously enjoy lapses of good times.
I’m not trying to brag, flaunt my superiority or make you feel uncomfortable when I state that I have a great life, while you may not feel the same about your life right now. I’m just an ordinary guy. However, what I wish to convey is that with the proper approach, we can all lead great lives.
Greatness isn’t a birthright or the result of serendipity; it is conquered by means of our will.
Welcome to my first blog post on this board, hosted by WordPress. Nowadays, social media platforms and digital communication processes break down the barriers, making things, once hard to accomplish–often impossible, very easy to do. I’m grateful for living in our era, although, I didn’t always feel this way.
When I was in my late teens, I wished I were born into the French Realism period, to rub elbows with characters issued from the imaginations of Flaubert, Stendhal, Balzac or Zola. I used to get lost in their novels and believed that, had I lived among them, I could have contributed in the forging of great new ideas of the times. Yes, in many ways I was also a Romantic…, be it a delusional one.
It seemed as though society in the 1970s and 1980s was stacked against someone like me, of modest upbringing and raised in an environment that didn’t inspire great ambition. It was difficult back then to voice opinions, to make a point, to state a different perspective or to make an impact on society. In the late 1960s, the working class united with young students who wanted to change things to create a ‘better society.’ They took to the streets, literally broke up those streets to build barricades, and by means of Molotov cocktails defended themselves from the bludgeoning force of ‘peace officers,’ armed with clubs, guns and tear gas.
In contrast to the époque of those great writers of the 19th century, back then, I lived in an era of anonymity and irrelevance—a place where, when you don’t possess the means of forceful persuasion (money, name, status, reputation or affiliation) or don’t enjoy a fortuitous stroke of luck, your voice is easily and swiftly silenced. Social reform, along with the cold war, also gave way to the rise of Big Brother, epitomized by both Governments’ increasing scrutiny of our every initiative, and the ruling Conglomerates, which corporations preponderantly seek growth, greater market control, more profits, and the obliteration of competitors and mavericks.
Yet, here I am today, publishing my ideas alongside millions of bloggers and people sharing content via social media at the touch of a few keys. I observe that some things worked out alright—or fell through the cracks—and am reminded, each 14th of July, that the French Realism grew above the ruins of the French Revolution.
Fact: Every era has its hallmark moments that spawn new opportunities for all, big and small. These days, the powers-that-be insinuate themselves in our lives differently, while the opportunities we enjoy are also different. However, to take advantage of these opportunities, we must adapt. We must not revolt, get angry, give up, resort to violence, segregate or separate, point fingers, condemn, eradicate or intimidate, but we must simply adapt. For if we don’t adapt, we stand no chance to be heard in the hope of someday making a meaningful and lasting difference.
My original home town of Bruges
But why am I here? Ah, yes… my gift.
I was born the youngest of five—a little accident. My dad too was the youngest of a nest-full. As an infant and young boy in a rather large family with cousins nearing retirement age when I was barely in middle school, I was never afforded to say much. Yet I had so much to say…. I mostly just observed, listened and learned. I often wanted to refute their arguments for keeping me out of their discussions, but I lacked the means and opportunity to express this.
For the first sixteen years of my life, I remember feeling miserable… most of the time. But when my father retired from the company where he worked for twenty years, and decided to move to the South of France to open a business and spend his early-retirement years in a productive and entrepreneurial fashion, he and I became close. There were no more cousins or siblings to rival with; I enjoyed for a few years my dad’s total bandwidth.
You should know that when my father was sixteen, he wanted to become a philosophy professor. He certainly had the capacity and motivation for it. But his mother and older brothers decided he should become a lawyer. After only one year in law school, the German army shut down the universities in Belgium. My father then enlisted in the army. By the time he graduated as an officer, luck would have it, WWII was over and he continued serving his country in Africa, instead of returning to law school. Twelve years later, the Belgian Congo became independent and he was retired at age thirty four. Caring for a household of six, he wasn’t in a position to pursue his dream, and he went on to earn a living in the private sector.
Eventually, in France, he became his own boss and I helped with the business. We had no TV. We talked a lot, discussed ideologies, history and philosophy, played chess often, went to the movies once a week and we read a lot—I the classics, he anything he could put his hands on, especially about history, science, art, the universe and, of course, philosophy. In my eyes, my dad’s personality had totally transformed, from a man that conservatively pursued a career out of sense of duty and necessity, to a man that took risks and thoroughly enjoyed every activity in which he engaged.
I, too, changed, in ways of confidence and curiosity. I began seeking answers. Surprisingly, I had less to say (but more to ask), though I retained the art of story-telling from my father. My assertiveness increased, and I began expressing my perspectives in ways that would help others, allowing me to forge my own path. I knew by then that my resolve was backed with the knowledge that I can always find a niche in which to contribute my unique perspective to guarantee my sustenance and livelihood. That knowledge of my perspective, at the core of my essence, I can never lose. In this resides my gift. All the rest seems circumstantial, because my greatest asset resides within me, and will for as long as I breathe.
I take pride in what my perspective represents. It is the most valuable thing I possess and control. With this in my arsenal, I explore life on my own terms and experience greatness. Yet it hinges on the understanding that my perspective is of value only because I learned to express it in ways that others can understand and benefit from it—to serve their goals. How could I possibly achieve greater success or contribute things of greater value than by sharing with others that which I believe is the most valuable thing that I possess? For other people to value what I do, I must value it. For other people to love what I do, I must love it. Certainly, I cannot offer others those things I know little about, that are not reflective of my perspectives, or in which I perceive little value, and expect them to value and love it. Sooner or later, the snake-oil salesman poisons his own value proposition.
Zig Ziglar says: “You can have everything in life you want if you will just help other people get what they want.”
Well, we can’t really give everybody everything that they want, because we may not have it in our purview to do it for them. However, when provided the opportunity, we can share with them that which is most unique and special about us. It is achieved by doing for them the things we do with love and passion, which bestows great value onto the things we do. We gift them the pleasure of enjoying the quality and value resulting from the love we put into the things that we do. In this context, Zig is right. We can try to do all we want for others, but without love, there is little value.
We all have a unique perspective. As we become aware of it and learn to express it for the benefit of others, we open the doors to our greatness.
Our perspectives grow, mature, become more fascinating over time and enrich our lives, when we are mindful of them. They yield to discovery of new and compelling opportunities. Thirty years passed since my experience in France before I discovered what truly caused my dad to change. It came as a result of interpreting my perception at a deeper level. My father didn’t change because he was his own boss, or because he no longer felt constrained to work in a corporate environment to fulfill goals that weren’t his and follow processes he joked about, more often than not. No, my father changed because he was happy and because, from then on, he did everything with love and conviction, which led him to appreciate and enjoy his success.
After considering my own rat-race since leaving France, I began realizing something far greater—as if it were a gift that keeps on giving, of sort: how to articulate and communicate the power concealed in our perspectives, for others to benefit from insights about their potential to achieve success and happiness every day and, lead rich and rewarding lives, develop great love for what they do, and turn the page on each day with the unmistakable sense of accomplishment and positive emotions—to inspire delight with the way the chapters of their lives unfold. After all, it is a choice.
Bookmark every day with success and happiness.
Our X Factor, a book I wrote and published, features a unique three-pronged approach to achieve success and happiness every day—Awareness, Making it Happen, Making it count. It is rich with quotations, references, stories, examples and anecdotes that highlight throughout the book the behavioral, psychological and philosophical aspects of our quest for success and happiness.
Today, I launch my blog—A Dash of Greatness—to inspire people about the prospects of leading fulfilled lives, which heightened awareness, development of potential and greater mindfulness provide with the guidance of Our X Factor. Going forward, this blog will elaborate on the subjects discussed in the book as well as address questions or topics the book may have left unanswered. I encourage everyone to set the bar for the quality and the enjoyment of their lives very high. Let’s be the best that we can be and live our lives to the fullest, in the fulfillment of our goals and dreams.
An X factor is the quality that bestows unique characteristics leading to the achievement of extraordinary successes and spectacular accomplishments, among other amazing things. Yet we all have an X factor, without exceptions. Our X Factor shows how to be GREAT!
We are all different and also the same; born ordinary people. Yet we don’t have to live ordinary lives. Let’s lead extraordinary lives! My aim is to guide you along this exciting journey and, every so often with this blog, inspire you to add a ‘dash of greatness’ to your lives.
Xavier Van de Lanotte, Author of Our X Factor
We all have an X factor…