The Yin and Yang of Success

art of fulfillment interviews life teachings science of success soul surfer success unthinkable book unthinkable living world class achievers yin and yang Jun 07, 2023

This is a section from my book, Unthinkable - Life Teachings From a Soul Surfer, that talks about the yin and yang of achievement. 

"Through the many years of interviews I conducted, while I learned that success and fulfillment are indeed mutually exclusive, at the same time, they can be very much compatible. One of my interviewees, Moustafa Hamwi, described success and fulfillment as “the yin and yang of achievement; the balance between achieving for yourself and for others.” Jorge Coutino, my former performance coach, distinguished the science of success and the art of fulfillment. Perhaps the most compatible and consistent characteristic of the two is the degree to which each of the individuals I interviewed, in some way, seemed to have found both. While they drew clear distinctions between success and fulfillment, they perceived them as two sides of the same coin."

The world has a tendency to view success and fulfillment as two separate entities, almost polar opposites. As a surfer who has spent many years observing and interacting with the ebb and flow of life and the ocean, I've come to appreciate a more balanced perspective. This insight was refined through seven years of interviews with world class achievers who've achieved Unthinkable things in their lives and careers.

One of the insights that stood out was from a conversation I had with Moustafa Hamwi. Hamwi eloquently described success and fulfillment as "the yin and yang of achievement." This struck a chord with me. Like the yin and yang, success and fulfillment are interconnected and interdependent. Just as yin cannot exist without yang, true achievement cannot be without a balance between personal success and the fulfillment of helping others.

Hamwi's perspective on achievement aligns with the essence of the yin and yang philosophy. In Chinese philosophy, yin and yang represent two opposing yet complementary forces that shape the universe. Success and fulfillment can be seen in the same light, where success is an outward display of our achievements and fulfillment is the internal satisfaction derived from these achievements.

My former performance coach, Jorge Coutino, offered a similar perspective. He drew a distinction between the Science of Success and the Art of Fulfillment. The science of success involves measurable elements like goals, milestones, and accolades. On the other hand, the art of fulfillment is much more subjective and personal. It's about how our achievements align with our coure values, how they resonate with our soul, and how they contribute to our overall sense of purpose.

Interestingly, a common thread among the individuals I interviewed was their simultaneous pursuit of both success and fulfillment. While they distinguished between the two, they also viewed them as two sides of the same coin. Success, in their eyes, wasn't just about achieving for themselves. It was also about achieving for others, making a difference, and adding value to the world.

Fulfillment was more than a personal feeling of satisfaction. It was an art of living, an ongoing journey of aligning their achievements with a higher purpose. These individuals found fulfillment not just in reaching their goals, but in the process of striving for them. They found fulfillment in the challenges, the growth, and the person they became along the way.

In essence, the yin and yang of achievement teach us that success and fulfillment are not mutually exclusive. Rather, they are complementary and interconnected aspects of a well-rounded, meaningful life. Just as a coin needs two sides to hold its value, our achievements hold the most value when they encompass both success and fulfillment. As we navigate the waves of life, may we all strive to find this balance in our journey.


  1. Interconnectedness of Success and Fulfillment: Success and fulfillment are complementary aspects of achievement, balancing personal accomplishments and the joy they bring.

  2. Dual Nature of Achievement: Achievement encompasses both tangible successes and the subjective fulfillment derived from them.

  3. Balanced Pursuit for Meaningful Life: Successful individuals aim for both outward success and internal fulfillment, resulting in a meaningful, well-rounded life.


  1. Reflection on Achievement: How do you currently define success and fulfillment in your life? How are these two concepts interconnected in your personal and professional achievements?

  2. Understanding Your Goals: Reflect on a recent goal you achieved. How did it contribute to your sense of success? And how did it contribute to your sense of fulfillment?

  3. Balance in Pursuit: How can you better balance the pursuit of outward success and internal fulfillment in your future goals? What steps can you take to ensure a more meaningful, well-rounded journey?


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Richard Kimber, Creative Director, Ultra Runner, Musician, and family man, says that when he approached this trail race, he ventured into a scale he has never played before. He had to treat it with a lot of respect. He says that you can't assume you're going to be successful before you've tried. You have to hope that you'll be successful and be confident that you'll be successful and back yourself, because in life, generally, nobody else is necessarily going to back you, even if they say they do. When you come to take on the challenge, whatever it might be unless you backed yourself. You are on your own. He says that believing in yourself from the beginning to the end is fundamental. When you believe in yourself, other people are likely to believe in you. At the same time, you have to be humble. Their belief in themselves has to be based on some kind of rational evidence that you can put together. It can't all be some spiritual hope.

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There are many things that you need in order to thrive. The most important are the social, emotional, and physical environment. You need to feel loved and supported by those around you, have a sense of purpose, and be physically healthy. If any of these things are missing, it will be difficult for you to reach your full potential. Take some time to assess your current situation and see if there are any areas that need improvement. Work on creating an environment that supports your growth and allows you to thrive. Remember, it takes effort from both sides!

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