What is success? This is a question many of us forget to ask. Instead, we jump right to a particular picture that involves a certain square footage, car, bank account, and vacation spots. While that may be one definition of success, it isn’t the only one – not by a long shot.

Success is whatever we think it is. That’s to say, it’s whatever it means for us. This may change from project to project, moment to moment, relationship to relationship. Success may be choosing yogurt over ice cream. It may be going to bed at 10 PM instead of 11 PM. It may be a month of journaling. It may be buying one’s first home. It may be landing one’s dream job. It may be having an affirming and supportive group of colleagues or friends.

When we open up the possible definitions, it becomes clear that success happens every day, and we can recognize it or not. The only difference is perspective. The only difference is how we feel at the end of the day.

Balancing Will and Way

I am guilty of jumping to a closed definition of success. I am also extremely ambitious. When I read others’ journeys, I tend to think, “Why not me?” and begin analyzing what steps I might take to get there.

The problem is being focused on achievement is a very unfulfilling walk through life.

For much of my life, I was hyper focused on achievement. This meant, even when I achieved my goal, I didn’t celebrate it. I barely had time to recognize I reached it before focusing on some new goal to reach.

I was always hungry for more. I was always pushing. I never savored. As you might expect, I was never happy because nothing was enough.

It was only in the last few years that I started examining this unsatisfying tendency of mine (I talk a lot about it in my memoir which you can check out here). My biggest breakthrough however, was while I worked on 42 DAYS THROUGH FAITH.

Even though Taoism didn’t get explored in my SIX DEGREES project, I found myself drawn to it through my meditations. My meditation practice grew extensively during my work on SIX DEGREES, and as I reaped the benefits of lower stress levels and increased peace, I continued the daily practice. Any meditation practitioner can attest, at some point after consistent practice, meditation brings on trances and dream-like states. In short, if someone meditates daily, at some point, they will have visions.

I’ve talked about it before, but I should mention, I have very intense dreams while I sleep, so my meditative visions were just as intense, though the content was drastically different.

For some reason, my meditative visions drew on symbols and stories from the Taoist tradition. It was so consistent and so clear, but I had very little knowledge of Taoist symbols and stories. In fact, I didn’t know they were Taoist until I looked them up with Google.


Repeatedly I saw the Dragon and the Phoenix. When there was the Phoenix, I was always the Phoenix. When there was just the Dragon, I was Guan Yin. Often there was a luminous pearl and many times, it was given to me to swallow.

It should be noted that in Taoism, Lao Tsu is called “The Dragon” and Confucius is “The Phoenix.” The Dragon symbolizes “Yin” or inaction. The Phoenix symbolizes “Yang” or action. The luminous pearl symbolizes “special knowledge” or more commonly, enlightenment. Guan Yin was both a Taoist and Buddhist “saint” or boddhisatva. Sometimes she’s known as the goddess of compassion, and called Tara, depending on the cultural tradition.

Now you’re wondering, “What the hell is Alexis talking about? I thought she was Christian! And what does this have to do with success?”

First, I am Christian – I just happen to know there is more to experience than what my religious tradition has to say on matters. Also, I have little conscious control over what my mind draws from collective consciousness.

Secondly, this has EVERYTHING to do with success.

Historically I am the Phoenix – I am Will. I assert active energy all over the place, bending reality with my hands. This alone is an unbalanced path through life, and frankly, unsustainable. In order to live a balanced life, it is essential to have patience and allow the Way to show itself.

Another way of framing this is to see this as the popular business concept of creating “Flow” – where enjoying now (mindfulness) is balanced with the future vision (ambition):

Mindfulness + Ambition = Flow

Dragon + Phoenix = Tao

Other words for “flow” might be “awesome” or “success.”

Frankly, that’s where I am these days. Every day brings new moments of success, and I spend time  I’ve been celebrating the journey as it unfolds and enjoying every aspect of it. Every moment of success is a moment of enjoyment and wonder. It makes my heart light because I am finally able to see my success as it unfolds, as opposed to putting it off to some indefinite future time.

Despite this ability to enjoy the now, I still have an eye on the future. I still have goals. I still have aspirations that I know will come to pass because of my energy and effort. I know it because of the success I’m enjoying now.

What success are you enjoying now? Are you balancing Will and Way? Leave a comment below!

How You Succeed Now
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