100_4219It is amazing how great the right space feels. Right now I am sitting in my new office. From the bookshelves which now hold my favorite selection of fiction and nonfiction, to the desk whose sole purpose is to provide a platform for my work, this room was made for me.

It’s a little intimidating. A lot of time, money and sweat equity have gone into this room. Do I even deserve this corner office?

What if I screw up? Fail? And what would constitute failure? What would constitute success?

I was watching Ellen yesterday and she had Ariana Huffington on talking about her book, Thrive. She had some interesting things to say about the way our culture defines success. She said that there are only two metrics for success: money and power. By those measures I’m a mediocre performer. There is no Lear parked in the driveway, and a snap of my fingers is likely to garner nothing better than a blister. On a scale of 1-10, the world would probably give me a five or maybe a two. But, and perhaps this is success of a kind, I’m not all that fussed about my score according to the world.

Ms. Huffington suggested that, if we are to be happy, fulfilled human beings, we need to add a third dimension, that of health and well-being, to our working definition of a successful life.

Now, I have seen cancer patients, knowing they were going to die and that they would be very ill in the meantime, who I still consider successful. They had family and friends to support them and whom, in a lot of ways, they supported in return. That’s success. To face adversity with courage and compassion, to flinch perhaps, but never give up, that’s success. I’ve also seen physically healthy people who lived in such a selfish way that they were dying of loneliness, in bitter isolation, without ever realizing the cause of their own pain. That is an epic fail.

The wisest thing that Ms. Huffington said to Ellen yesterday was that we need to access “our capacity to tap into our own wisdom, our own sense of wonder at the beauty of life that we so often miss, and our capacity to give, and be kind.” So what does my wisdom tell me?

Wisdom whispers to me that if we leave the world a better place than we found it, then we are successful. If we love and are loved in return, we are successful. If we nurture, help, guide and accept the next generation, we are successful. If we appreciate and add to the beauty in the world, we are successful. If we cling to the capacity for wonder and joy and act on the desire to share these things with others, then we are successful.

So, my question for myself today is, how successful am I? How successful are you?

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2 thoughts on “Success Rag

  1. As a writer, I think it is especially important to redefine success in a way that looks beyond measurements of money and power. Statistics are just numbers and only have value relative to other numbers. When I finished my first novel, even before the first edit, I considered it a great accomplishment. Every piece I finish that I am happy with I see as successes. How can one measure personal accomplishment against the accomplishments of another? The challenge is in overcoming the obstacles specific to our own lives, and the only true measure of success is how well we are able to battle our internal demons and self-doubts. As long as we are still challenging ourselves to be the best we can be, I believe everyone can enjoy success!

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  2. I agree and I think that philosophy fits regardless of our profession. Of course the specifics will vary but reaching goals, overcoming obstacles and building kindness and purpose into our lives makes us successful. And your point about comparisons is well taken. Measuring yourself against someone else’s yardstick is never profitable because you aren’t measuring the same things. My abilities, goals and dreams are different than someone else’s so it makes no sense to compare myself to another. I’d rather just be happy for them and pursue my own life in the best way I can. Thanks for the comment.

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