Personal Success Story Workshop – What’s your definition of success?

I just completed a blog post on why acting is more effective than thinking when it comes to achieving success. I realised that the very same information is as relevant to the Personal Success Workshop of the past week end as to the story class about which I was writing. So I am posting it again from the perspective of the definition of success. Or perhaps you rather just want to go straight to the notes for the Personal Success Story workshop.

When I asked participants in the Personal Success Story to form a continuum showing to what degree they are ready for transformation, most of them placed themselves close to the side that indicates they are sick of being where they are and in dire need of change.

Transformation becomes our definition of success as we embark on the success story together. Success very rarely have anything to do with external changes, but always refer to an internal shift or transformation that then has a direct effect on the outer world of the hero. The lonely Shrek in the first movie makes friends and finds true love not because someone outside of him started to care for him, but because he started to care for them. He chose to go after Fiona while still believing that she thinks he is an unlovable ogre.

There comes a point in everyone’s story, fictional or real, where a shift in perspective is crucial for successful transformation. In real life people look for this shift by reading books, attending seminars, talking to their friends and mentors, going to church and googling for info on the net. Yet all the info and talk and thinking in the world do not bring them to the point of making that internal behavioural shift – that moment that causes them never to be the same again – the moment that embodies their definition of success.

Then that same person goes on holiday, or has to deal with the death of a loved one, or a wedding, or they play a game of soccer with friends or they go for a hike in nature, or they create a piece of art, or join a dance class or just have a great meal with friends and suddenly old things have a new colour.

All these are examples of experiences that bring change: experiential learning. If transformation is your definition of success, these are the kinds of experiences you seek. Typically they have the following 4 aspects in common:

  1. A change of scenery/setting
  2. Involvement of the body i.e. movement
  3. Emotional connection i.e. a heart response and
  4. The presence of others – including the presence of nature or the creative muse

I went to my kinesiologist 2 months ago with a most debilitating pain in my back. She says to me: you think and struggle too much in your head and do not move enough in your body. She prescribed a half hour of walking twice a week so that my mental struggles can come into perspective and move from my head into my body.

Although these shifts can happen to anyone at any time, there is a particular moment in a story designed for it. A place in the story where it is most likely to occur because of all the story stages that preceded it. This moment is typically two thirds into the story just before act three. Some writers refer to it as the pause before the climax that calm before the storm. It is the moment when the hero seems to have lost and the journey seems to be a failure, then something happens that allows him/her to see the bigger picture and the greater good.

This is the moment where Shrek in the first movie realises it is no longer about getting his swamp back, but it is now about getting his love back. It is where Brave Heart realises it is no longer just about his family, but about is entire tribe.

I saw shifts occur in all the Personal Success Story workshop except for the one who was on the furthest end of the continuum regarding his need for change. This participant also happens to be Burgert, who is my business partner, and whose definition of success for this workshop would not have been personal success, but the successful completion of the workshop in creating transformation for our participants.

Congratulations to all of you who were brave enough to come to this very experiential workshop and allowed the processes to impact your lives. I trust that the experience will reveal its layers of truth for you ongoing over the next few months so that you can achieve the change that matches your definition of success.

Click her for the Personal Success Story Notes

Petro Janse van Vuuren


Are you losing control, or losing power?

Is there a difference between control and power? Many people confuse the one with the other. You see, it is not true that you will have power when you have control and if you lose control, it does not mean you have to lose your power.

We make a promise in our Personal Success Story workshop that it will help you figure out what parts of your story you have control over and what parts you don’t. This does not mean we promise that you will regain control. We do, however promise to create a space where you can regain power.

Control is the illusion of power. Real power, is being strong inspite of a sense of being out of control.

Here is an example of what I mean.

In the movie UP, Mr. Frederickson feels out of control from the moment he discovers the boy scout has joined him on his voyage. From that moment on he responds to challenges with resistance. He wants to get to  Paradise Falls and he strives towards it with all his might. Around every turn he meets with characters that slows him down, takes him on detours and confuses the goal.

Finally he chases them all away and forces himself to the Fall. There he sits down to enjoy the rewards of reaching his goal – he was successful at last. Yet, it is not what he expected. With the help of his late beloved wife Elli’s Adventure book, he rediscovers the true value of an adventure: not reaching the destination (paradise Falls) but enjoying the journey with your companions.

There and then he makes a choice to embrace the new companions he had met and support them in their quest. He reunites with the talking dog and sacrifices all his resources to help the boy and the exotic bird Kevin.

Personal success is dependent on the choices you make in the darkest moments of your journey.

These choices, stories teach us, either produce success or they lead to ultimate downfall. Either you receive reward beyond your wildest imagination, or you regress to a point worse than where you started.

In UP Mr. Frederickson makes a choice for relationship vs reaching his destination – he chooses power over control.  This motivates him through the worst ordeal of the entire story and causes him to lose all that he used to hold dear. But he gains a new life and a new set of companions to share the adventure with.

Mr. Frederickson was able to give up control and regain his power. This is my hope for all of us:

To allow our darkest moments to manifest our main motivation: the thing that matters more than staying in control. There lies true power.

The Mr. Frederickson response is therefore to let go of the ideals you were holding on to in favour of new growth and change.

But stories teach us two other responses

The Brave Heart response comes when you discover in that moment that you cannot let go of the thing you are holding on to. This may be because it really is your true ;power and you have been chosen to manifest it in a world that resists your truth. In that case holding on would also access your true power. Still, you would need to let go of everything else and give up control in that way. You may even have to be willing to give your life like Brave Heart.

In the Oedipus response the main character is also brought to his darkest moment and confronted with his own truth and the greater good, but is unable to let go the obsession that is driving him (his version of Paradise Falls).  The consequences of such a choice, stories teach us, is devastating. Characters like Oedipus, Othello, Macbeth and Clever Elsie all end up worse than where they started, these are not success stories.

May you know when to let go and when to hold on so you can access your power.

Go out and be a Mr. Frederickson or a Brave Heart

For more on you and your life story, join our story class in Stellenbosch

Dr. Petro Janse van Vuuren

Click on the links below for more info about our Personal Success Story workshops in your area.
Western Cape