What is success?
by Ralph Waldo Emerson
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 bit 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 to have succeeded.
What is success? How do we define success? Oh, the many ways I’ve defined it over the decades of my life!
Since retiring, I’ve been more curious than ever about what it means. What makes a successful day? a successful life? I’ve noticed my tendency to define myself by my accomplishments, by the actions I take, the tangible outcomes I achieve. I’ve reflected on how this achievement orientation started as I child, called to contribute to the family and our community in meaningful ways, how it strengthened as I was invited to learn and show my understanding through school lessons, and how it continued to morph when I become a worker in the productivity machine of the corporate workplace.
Now, though, I feel Emerson’s invitation to open to something so much simpler, something holding such power and possibility: to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. That would be success.