Look at you!

The Western Star - - Life - Ed Smith

Quick, name the three main indicators of suc­cess.

If you were quick, would bet hall my debt load you im­me­di­ately shouted “fame and for­tune”. Right? That’s if you were quick about it. But you may have had to hes­i­tate on the third in­di­ca­tor.

When I thought for two or three mo­ments I re­al­ized there was a lot more to to this lit­tle ex­er­cise than meets the eye, es­pe­cially mine and prob­a­bly yours. Con­sider that your eye and mine are fairly typ­i­cal of the mod­ern West­ern civ­i­liza­tion eye, God help us. The def­i­ni­tion of suc­cess is bound to be a lit­tle warped.

Un­der­stand I’m tack­ling this dif­fi­cult sub­ject only for your greater ed­i­fi­ca­tion. There are lots of other things I would rather be do­ing. Fish­ing.

It strikes me that a proper un­der­stand­ing of the term can only be reached through ex­am­in­ing the lives of peo­ple who are un­der­stood to be suc­cess­ful. If, I were to ask you off the top of your head to name a suc­cess­ful per­son, you might be for­given for im­me­di­ately think­ing of some­one who has reached the pin­na­cle of his or her pro­fes­sion or call­ing or vo­ca­tion. The name Don­ald Trump might come to mind, al­though I’m not sure you would be for­given for that.

All things con­sid­ered, he is ar­guably the most pow­er­ful man on earth. Can’t rise much higher than that. But when you do con­sider all things, it is dif­fi­cult to sink much lower, given the name as­so­ci­ated with the cri­te­ria. He is not Justin Trudeau. He is not even An­gela Merkel.

Ob­vi­ously the cri­te­ria have to be mod­i­fied and care­fully stated. Sup­pose we said that one re­li­able in­di­ca­tor of suc­cess is the de­gree to which he is ad­mired and re­spected by his fel­lows. Sounds good, al­though it im­me­di­ately dis­misses Mr. Trump, es­pe­cially if we add the rider, uni­ver­sal. Of course he is rich, if it’s a key to suc­cess.

On the other hand it will in­clude Mr. Gret­sky, es­pe­cially for peo­ple in the sport­ing fra­ter­nity, hockey di­vi­sion. Mu­sic and the vis­ual arts? Hmmm.

I’m told there are porn stars who are widely re­spected and con­sid­ered highly suc­cess­ful. Per­haps the re­spect net has to be cast a lit­tle wider.

I’m not do­ing well with ex­pound­ing on this suc­cess busi­ness and what and who it is or could be. What is the uni­ver­sal cri­te­ria for suc­cess? Or is there any such thing?

I think there is. But the cri­te­ria have to be so all in­clu­sive that they are rarely found in one in­di­vid­ual. In the last dozen decades or so, I can think only two. Per­haps the great­est “suc­cess” story of them all in hu­man and po­lit­i­cal terms has been Nel­son Man­dela.. No one is more uni­ver­sally ad­mired. Yet he, too, has his de­trac­tors. Win­ston Churchill is right­fully cred­ited with sav­ing the world from Hitler. Yet shortly af­ter World War II ended, the Bri­tish peo­ple would not elect him as their peace­time leader. Per­haps we should cut Brother Trump a lit­tle slack.. Can­not be­lieve I am say­ing that name in com­pany with the other two and in that con­text.

In ret­ro­spect I think I may be look­ing in the wrong places for. a mean­ing­ful def­i­ni­tion of suc­cess. Or some­one who ex­em­pli­fies it. Much like some peo­ple who look straight up when you ask them where Heaven is. Same mis­take..Like heaven, suc­cess is a highly sub­jec­tive and in­di­vid­ual con­cept. It only has mean­ing when seen in spe­cific con­texts and sit­u­a­tions. One size does not fit all.

You want to find some­one who has made a suc­cess of her life, don’ t look only to the rich and fa­mous. Stop search­ing the heav­ens. Look to the one near­est to you, or the lady next door. Con­sider a woman with six or eight chil­dren who re­fuses to leave them to the abuses of the fa­ther. She will not aban­don them, al­though a large part of that abuse is heaped on her. I re­mem­ber a woman who stayed with her el­derly fa­ther long af­ter he was con­fined to bed. The house caught fire one night. Her body was found kneel­ing next to his bed. She stayed to com­fort him to the end. Her life was one great suc­cess story.

Our friends in­clude peo­ple who care for oth­ers be­cause the need is there. Of­ten no one else knows about it. I also know peo­ple who re­gard their lives as fail­ures be­cause they com­pare them­selves with oth­ers, and see noth­ing in their own lives as wor­thy of men­tion.

Could you at this mo­ment iden­tify from those around you peo­ple whose lives are cer­tainly suc­cesses. Chances are you have al­ready mis­sez the most ob­vi­ous one.


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