Thursday, April 15, 2010

#66 - Thoughts on Success

Not to get too political, but in reading any number of conservative blogs and comments on various news stories one gets the impression that hard work and drive are all it takes to be successful and that anyone can do it.

But we can't all be successful, can we? Don't there have to be unsuccessful people against whom the "successful" can measure themselves to know they are in fact successes?

What exactly does it mean to be successful? There are any number of answers to that question, the vast majority of which seem to involve money at some level.

Success seems to be measured by car you drive, the house you live in, the amount of money you make, the toys you have. By those standards, I guess I am moderately successful. But it wasn't always so.

By those yardsticks, most of my life could be written off as a failure. In my first career in broadcasting, my income never topped $25,000 a year. I made enough to pay rent, eat, and to eventually pay off my student loans from college. Not exactly a rags to riches story.

Thanks in large part to the financial prudence of my wife Teresa (the real brains of the outfit) I might be considered a little more successful these days. I live in a nice house (not a McMansion but big enough for us) and drive what I think is a pretty nice truck, used for pulling our one toy, our fifth wheel trailer.

Yet there are, I suspect, people with smaller bank accounts than many of us whom I would consider more successful than I. They have found the one thing I have struggled to obtain for most of my life - a real joy or passion for living.

Their success is measured in ways having little to do with dollar signs or the things money can buy (sorry Madison Avenue): working in a job or field they truly love regardless of what it pays. Still having a touch of the reckless abandon they possessed in childhood. The ability to laugh openly, cry freely, live and love simply. The ability to marvel in a sunset and in the artistic ability required to paint one. Being happy in their own skin and in the place where they are.

Those are the types of small successes I am working toward. I am not consistently there, but I have moments. Turning out a tasty loaf of fresh-baked bread or preparing a meal that others enjoy are two of the ways I measure success these days. Finding something to smile about is another.

And so, I find myself back at my earlier question. We can't all be successful, can we? Well, maybe we can, but only if we stop measuring success the way an accountant might measure a company's financial solvency. Here's to success.

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