The Suckiness of Success
A few nights ago, I was having dinner with a guy I would consider successful. He’s a year or two older than me. He said, “I’ve accomplished more in my life than I ever thought I would.”
My typical American “keeping up with the Joneses attitude” wanted me to jump up and say, “Me, too! Me, too!” But, he truth is? I haven’t accomplished more than I ever dreamed. So, this sent me into a bit of a tailspin. Why not, Engel? What’s wrong with you? Then, I had to blame myself because, well, I’ve never truly defined success nor accomplishment. Not for myself, that is. I began to feel very sucky.
Then, I remembered this quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson:
“To laugh often and much to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children
to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends
to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others to leave the world a little better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition
to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is the meaning of success.”
I’m also reminded of Tim Ferriss’ personal mission in life: to love, to be loved and to never stop learning.
All these ideas are great. And, if we take the last line of Emerson’s poem, I can say, without hesitation, I have achieved success. But, why does it feel like that’s so…small? I’m a human being with the ability to touch tens of thousands of other lives. Isn’t it kinda low expectations to only help one life breathe easier? I think so.
What’s my definition of success? I’m still working on that. In the meantime, can you distill your ideas of success down to a few sentences? Or a couple phrases? I believe in brevity. The truest things in the world are also the simplest. In the next few days, I’ll post my definition of success. It may not be yours, but I’m hoping we can dialogue to figure out what mine is. And yours. And maybe something simple enough we can all agree on it.