S.P. Austen (1960- 2020) was an independent author writing on a diversity of subjects and genres. He passed away on June 30, 2020
In this modern day and age of high technology and fast media, we hear so much information about success. In fact, the term 'success' is pretty much rammed down our throats like a bad emetic, ad nauseam.
Haven't we heard enough about 'success' and 'successful people' to the point where everyone who seems to lack the so-called 'credentials' for success is getting rather sick to the eye teeth of hearing about it, and what it takes to break your neck to achieve it?
We have TV shows like Shark Tank and Dragon's Den praising the virtues of the entrepreneur, whose sole goal it seems, is to make a million or so before the age of 21. Or is that before the age of 12? I'm never quite sure these days. In fact, these entrepreneurs, whatever their age, never seem to tire of making as much money as they possibly can.
Now, I enjoy the two shows mentioned above, and often some very good and worthy people come on the shows with great and innovative ideas. If it wasn't for the entrepreneurs of the world, we all might still be working out how to make the first matchstick. I certainly wouldn't be writing on my computer right now.
But that aside, how much success do we need in the world, under the current definition of what success actually means?
Are we Success Obsessed?
When people think of successful people, they are likely to think of individuals like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, or Mark Zuckerberg amongst several others. At the time of my writing this article, Bill is estimated to have a fortune around 92 Billion US and Mark around 76 Billion US. (Never mind, Mark, you're still young and can soon catch up with Bill - as if you need to!) Steve has passed to the next world and I am sure has realised by now that you really can't take it with you.
I am not knocking the entrepreneur's fantastic ability to make equally fantastic sums of money, but I can't help thinking of the advice of Jesus who said that you can't love God and mammon. There's food for thought, because whether you are religious or not, the people who focus solely on making money don't really focus on much else. You'll be too busy making dosh hand over fist to care about anything else. This is in fact, the moral of the statement.
I have heard several wealthy people groan that they have neglected their families in the pursuit of wealth. They always regret it, but it seems that the vast sums they make are worth any amount of emotional misery involved, whether it be divorce or children no longer wanting anything to do with you except the annual stipend you provide them with.
"What profit is there, if you gain the whole world, but lose your own soul?" ~ Jesus
Success Comes in Many Forms
Let's redefine success. Let's stop praising some people because they have made a fortune. Let's stop electing them because they are already so rich that they own just about every corporation in existence and get financial rewards from them to fund their political campaigns. In this world, money equals power, and in the end, it is just that ~ power ~ that many of these entrepreneurs really want. In some books, there is a word for this; it's called corruption.
We aren't all made of the same stuff. We are certainly not all made of the stuff that it takes to become any kind of an entrepreneur, and we don't all go to bed thinking money, money, money.
And, newsflash for those who keep on tooting the horn of being an entrepreneur to get anywhere in life, we don't all want to make multiple millions or billions in order to be successful in the eyes of shallow people who define a person's quality by how much he or she has in the bank, or how many homes, yachts, cars he or she has.
Most of us just want to do something that we love (like writing for instance) and make a decent income from it if possible, that provides for our needs and the needs of our families, and not have to work for some of these very same immensely wealthy people for peanuts and no thanks at the end of it.
Some of the most successful people in the world are actually those who treat others with kindness, love and dignity. They aren't necessarily wealthy and haven't necessarily created something that we all use, but they have contributed to the well-being of humanity by their mere presence in the world.
There are no accolades for the mother who raises her children with principles and good values, or the father who worked hard in a factory to ensure his daughter could have the ballet lessons that she wanted. There are no accolades for all the unsung people who have striven to provide homes and put food on the table, given with a generous and loving heart.
But without them, the world order as we know it, would crumble, for they are the salt of the Earth who provide the vital savour of life itself. Their success is far greater than any amount of money. These are 'successful people' because they leave a lasting impression upon the children they raised well, the pupils they taught, the people they helped, or those who benefitted from their kindness and advice in a myriad of forms.
A New Name for Success
I can remember someone who was very close to me, at the time in his eighties, feeling dejected because the business that he and his wife had built and run successfully for many years, was struck a blow by bureaucracy and had to come to a close.
I can still recall how sad he looked, and his confidence was dented considerably. But I stood there with him and told him what a great person he was, that he was already successful as a human being, and that could never be taken away from him. He brightened up to hear those words.
He was a real success as a person, due to his constant kindness and unselfish character. He passed away a few years ago, but everyone that knew and loved him always remembers his kindness and love. His wife is to this day, still generous, kind and thoughtful and her success too is largely dependent on her good character. In the end, it is only the content of our character (to paraphrase Martin Luther King) that is the mark of real success.
Muhammed Ali was asked once in an interview, how he became the world's champion boxer; what drove him to excel? He responded that it wouldn't have mattered what he did for a profession; if he'd been a garbage man he would have been the best garbage man. His success was dependent on his determination to do his very best, no matter what he was engaged in.
The successful person is the one of good character; the one who acts from right conduct and does their duty to the best of their ability. Success really pertains to the person who acts from dignity, with respect for others, and holds to good human values. The successful person is unselfish, and generous with even what little they may have.
Any rich person can give from a vast storehouse of money and look good in the eyes of the world for all their charitable donations. Yet Jesus praised the widow who gave all that she had, and Mother Teresa said, "Give until it hurts." That doesn't mean that the rich only give because they want to look good. Certainly, some of them want to use their wealth to help the world. But real giving may not always come in the form of financial help. It can come in unselfish service and in time given up too.
Success Equals Duty
In Plato's Protagoras, he outlines a dialogue between Socrates and other philosophers, in which the discussion turns towards what constitutes a 'good' man. After much debate, the conclusion is that goodness (known as Virtue in the dialogue) and therefore by extension for our purposes, success, is found in the one who does his duty.
Whatever you do, whatever your goals or ambitions, (or lack of ambition for that matter) wherever and whatever set of circumstances you find yourself in, whatever cards the hand of Fate or Lady Luck has dealt you, then by God do what you can with it to do it perfectly. Perform your Duty, whatever it may be, with such relish that none could possibly do it better. Do it not to compete, or to be praised, or to be thought a wonderful person, just do what you can and do it well, and all the other things that you need will be added to you.
Success Equates with doing one's Duty; performing your Duty is Success. This is the really successful person.