Image by Alexander Lesnitsky 

Man has gone out to explore other worlds and other
civilizations without having explored his own labyrinth
of dark passages and secret chambers, and without finding
what lies behind doorways that he himself has sealed.

How was i able to avoid bankruptcy at age twenty-eight when my father suddenly died, leaving me as the primary owner (and suddenly CEO) of a company with about 500 full- or part-time employees and virtually no infrastructure? Two months after my Dad’s funeral, the bank called all our loans, giving me ninety days to raise $30 million.

How did I turn my health around after a doctor told me, “Gary, you’ve probably got less than a month to live”? How did I quit drinking, stop comparing myself to others, escape the trap of workaholism, and heal my family relationships?

How did we create a team that took a company valued at $20 million and increase its valuation to almost $400 million in just five years, expanding our work force from eighty to five hundred while gaining eight thousand customers, with consistently high satisfaction ratings from both employees and customers on regular surveys? I surrendered. I let go. I got out of the way. I turned my life over to a higher power.

I exchanged willpower for willingness. I actually let that higher power run my life. I prioritized being authentic, doing good, and doing well. I’ve lived by this code ever since.

innerself subscribe graphic

You may not be faced with anything like the apocalypse that almost obliterated me (I hope not!), but you’ve got your own chal­lenges. Others more fortunate may already enjoy a stable, successful situation. But if you’re still reading, you know there’s more, and you want it.

Every issue you face is going to have its own set of challenges.

While I understood the value of business skills and invested heavily in honing my trade, creating an image of success for all the world to see, I didn’t know that upgrades were also available for my “living life” skills. Like so many of us, I was putting the cart before the horse. I would borrow money, leverage myself, use credit cards, and of course work harder, but I always wanted things before I had earned them.

I’ve since learned that true success builds on the foundation of our true character. I was tired of being a character rather than having character! “Being” is as important as “doing,” and it comes first.


Remember heading out on a road trip? What happened before you took off?

You had a destination. You looked at a map or set your GPS. If you’d never been there before and the journey was risky—like climbing Everest—you hired a guide. You gathered supplies, everything you might need on the trip. But there’s something else you did that’s even more important. I’ll explain with a brief story:

A boy scout returned to headquarters with his uniform in tatters, bruised and bleeding. “What happened to you?” asked the scoutmaster.

I helped an old lady across the street,” the boy replied, nursing his bloody lip.

But why are you all banged up like this?”

“She didn’t want to go!”

Do you want to go? Is this a journey you really want to take? There are plenty of excellent business books out there, many of which I’ve read and continue to find valuable, even essential to my business success. If all you want is business success, then I recommend you close this book and read those. I’m not going to hustle you across a street you don’t want to cross!

You cannot achieve a new outcome without learning something new
and practicing what you learned (probably outside your comfort zone).

If you do want more; if you want peace, to feel like you’re living your own life; if you want to truly enjoy your success and sleep well at night; if you feel ready to explore the actual details of what that would look like to surrender and win in your life and your organiza­tion, then you’re almost ready to rock and roll. But first, you have to find your why.

Why do you want to go down this road and not some other? In Start with Why, Simon Sinek wrote: “Very few people or companies can clearly articulate why they do what they do. When I say why, I don’t mean to make money—that’s a result. By why I mean what is your purpose, cause or belief? why does your company exist? why do you get out of bed every morning?”

Finding my “why” had a lot to do with a young boy who killed himself. His tragedy jolted me to my core. In an instant I knew that I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t dedicate the rest of my life to helping others like Jack, not just teenagers but anyone who is on that great hairy edge of giving up on life. I went right up to that edge myself, but I survived. Was that just for my personal benefit? Absolutely not. That experience triggered in me what’s natural to us all, the deep desire to help others.

It’s the Harriet Tubman dynamic. She couldn’t rest, just being free herself. She had to go back for others. You have a “why,” a personal calling connected to helping people. It already lives within you, but you may not know it fully yet. 

There is no exercise better for the heart than
reaching down and lifting people up.


What breaks your heart?
Finding out will lead you to your why.


You can fill this out right here or access the form at

For each statement below, give your answer from 1 to 5: 1 for strongly no, 5 for absolutely yes, 2–4 for degrees in between. Trust your first intuitive answer.

  • ___ I know why I get out of bed each morning and can’t wait for the day to start.

  • ___ I love what I’m doing and have identified my contribution to the world, for now.

  • I_____ _am organizing my life and career to make this “why” my top priority.

  • ___ I am actively engaging others to help me do this.

Total your scores and multiply by four. Redoing this questionnaire periodically will help ensure you are heading in the right direction. Journaling is also important, to track the evolution of your awareness.

DATE: _______ ________ SCORE: _____ 

0–25 You don’t know, and you don’t know that you don’t know. This is a perfect starting point ... if you break inertia by taking one step forward.

26–50 You don’t know, and you know that you don’t know. It’s a humbling moment. Use meditative time to increase your intuitive knowing.

51–75 You know, but you don’t know that you know. You’re primed and ready to actively engage with this learning journey.

76–100 You know, and you know that you know. You know your why. This book and other resources can help you fulfil your calling and connect you with fellow travelers on this path.


I surrendered. Not because I thought it would help me win. I didn’t know that concept yet. The strategy, “surrender and win” developed as we wrote this book. Back then, I had no other choice.

You’re probably not dangling at the end of the vine the way I was. So without that life-or-death pressure I was under, what could motivate you to make such a paradoxical shift? It’s going to take a personally transformative experience, not just information. I’ll do my best to set this up for you right here, right now.

My own deepest learning happens through listening. For those who share my learning style, we’ve created short audio programs, accessible through our website, You may learn visually or kinesthetically, but most of us can be moved by evocative listening presentations that invite us to stop thinking and feel.


Visit our site to find a guided audio meditation on Finding Your Why. Here’s the text for the audio simula­tion. Pause frequently as you read/listen, so you can drop deep below the superficial concerns in your life.

Imagine an ocean.
There are waves on the surface,
but underneath it's calm.
Let's go there.

Find a quiet, private space, settle into a comfortable chair, and close your eyes (if you’re listening). Take a couple of deep breaths and notice the tension flooding out of your body.

Let your mind wander. Enjoy watching your thoughts and letting them go, just floating in and out. Feel what it's  like to be present, here, reading these words or listening to them. There's nothing to achieve, nothing to prove, no problem to solve ... you’re just being, being alive.

Now imagine the screen of your mind going blank. Thoughts still come and go, but they seem almost invisible. The space is more noticeable. Now, into this space, welcome a feeling. It's not one you welcome every day; in fact, most of us avoid it.

Welcome the feeling of heartbreak. How was your heart broken? What did it? Who was involved? When did it happen? All of us have memories of heartbreak. Let one or two float into your awareness, and then focus on the one that feels most memorable.

What happened? Watch this scene in your life movie without blame or judgement; just notice what's  going on. Why did this have such a big impact on you?

Now ask yourself, “Am I called to do something about this?” If the answer is no, let another memory appear, and another, until you find a memory of heartbreak that connects you with a sense of obligation.

You’re searching for your calling in the world. You may already know it. If so, just enjoy these moments of reading and listening to affirm and strengthen your commitment.

Now, create an intention. It might be something like mine: to do whatever I can to help others surrender and win, especially those struggling on the edge of life and death. Your intention, whatever it turns out to be, will always be about helping others. By helping others, you will help yourself.

Don’t expect too much right away. Many people don’t land on something compelling during the first reading or listening. There's no rush. You can read and listen as often as you want, and daydreaming often teases it out. Rest assured, we all have a calling in this world, and we can find it, when the time is right and if we keep looking. Like fruits on a tree, we all ripen on our own schedule.

When you feel complete or when the audio program is over, write down whatever you want to remember in your journal.

Pause for a few moments before you continue reading. This sort of calm inner experience is what lives at the core of relaxed productivity.


We can stimulate and experience significant transformation from reading or listening, but it only makes a lasting difference in our lives when we take action afterward. Otherwise, no matter how high the high, it fades into the past to live as a nagging memory that drives us to find the next high. Sounds like an addiction! What makes epiphanies truly valuable is always the disciplined self-regulation in follow-through.

It is essential that you develop the discipline
to consistently manage your behaviors,
follow through on commitments, and keep your promises.

In Academy of Management Discoveries, Erik Dane, distinguished associate professor of management at the Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University, observed, “Epiphanies resolve psycho­logical tension,” he says. “It’s often something someone has been grappling with that leads to an epiphany. Maybe they’re discontent in their career and don’t know where to go.”

And, recognizing the challenges, he added, “We’re often resistant to a solution because it could change our lives or our place within an organization,” says Dane. “The real question is, are you psycho­logically ready for the solution to emerge? If you’re not ready for the consequences, you might have mental barricades that hinder problem solving.”

I didn’t just hit the wall, have an epiphany, and presto, everything got better. I was compelled to change my lifestyle. I quit chasing all those things “out there” that had been giving me temporary satisfaction and began exploring my inner world, where I often felt like a stranger in a strange land.

I still find myself chasing things, but I know better now. I listen to my inner voice, and I can actually hear it. We all know that voice; it’s the one that calms us down when someone cuts us off in traffic and we start to go ballistic.

That voice is always there; we’ve just drowned it out with cell phones, TV, work, soccer practice, and what I call our “busynesses.” The saying that idle hands do the devil’s work may be true enough, but busy hands can also keep us from fully becoming what God made us to be.

Copyright ©2023. All Rights Reserved.
Adapted with permission.
Publisher: Forbes Books.

Article Source: The Success Paradox

The Success Paradox: How to Surrender & Win in Business and in Life
by Gary C. Cooper with Will T. Wilkinson.

bok cover: The Success Paradox by Gary C. Cooper.The Success Paradox is the improbable story of a life and business transformed, told in a warmly authentic style that says: “I hit rock bottom, I surrendered, I began doing the opposite of what I’d been doing before, miracles happened, and here’s what you can learn from my journey.”

With riveting personal details that illuminate his discoveries, Gary details how he defied the odds – not just to survive but to thrive - by implementing a series of paradoxical strategies, fundamentally opposite to anything he’d ever done before. The result is an inspiring book about what happened to him and a blueprint for readers to experience how to surrender and win in business and life.

Click here for more info and/or to order this hardback book. Also available as a Kindle edition and as an Audiobook.

About the Author

photo of GARY C. COOPERGARY C. COOPER was 28 when his father died suddenly, making him CEO of a South Carolina health care business with 500 employees, $25M in revenue, and ten partners much older than him. Two months after his father’s funeral the bank called all their loans, demanding $30M in 30 days. So began Gary’s roller coaster ride into workaholism, alcoholism, near bankruptcy, and family strife, culminating in a doctor’s grim diagnosis: “You have less than a month to live.”

But Gary turned everything around. Today he is sober, healthy, happy, his family is reunited, and his company, Palmetto Infusion Inc., is valued at $400M. How he did it reveals three astounding secrets that turn best business practices upside down.

For more info about Gary, visit For info on the non-profit organization he co-founded with Will Wilkinson, visit