The Moving Target of Success
One of the regular questions which I face in open houses is – “How to be successful/What is success?”
It got me thinking, because I have never introspected on the matter of success or happiness before. What does success mean, I thought, and how can I define it to anyone’s satisfaction but my own?
Success is a very interesting term. So is happiness. Taken together or separately, they are the measures of a human being. When you meet someone, whether it’s a new connection or someone you have known for years, you define them by how successful and happy they appear. It is as though these two words are the standard parameters by which we judge a person.
And yet, if you ask different people, each has a different parameter by which they define success and happiness. Personally, I look at life as a very simple process. We are born one day and we’ll die one day. In between we have two options: one, complicating everything that we experience; and two, simplifying everything that we experience.
These are my musings on the subjects of success and happiness and may not match someone else’s definitions. To give you a small example, when I started off in my career, my idea of success was to rise up the corporate ladder, get into critical positions, and to head a company one day. But I have had some friends who rejected this notion of success and said that they wanted a small, comfortable house, time with their families, and stipulated working hours. For some of my other friends, success is to become an expert in what they do.
Was I right? Were they right? Am I happier, or are they happier? Am I more successful? Difficult to answer. If I look at these questions from their perspective, I find that the answer is simple. If we have achieved what we wanted to do, then we have all reached the same level of success and happiness. That’s why in the beginning I mentioned that the definition of success and happiness mostly varies from person to person.
I say “mostly” because some things remain common. In all the years that I’ve spent building my own success and happiness, I’ve encountered people who are simple and genuine in every sense of the word. They help others grow, they are there for you when you need them and they share your sorrows. These people always seemed to be much more content with their lives than anyone else I’ve met.
It is from such people that I have developed my own philosophy of success. Material success cannot be the ultimate success, because human beings have ever-changing goals. Today I want a car. Three years down the line, I’ve bought a car, but then I’ll want a house. After that, a bigger house. Then someday, a world tour. And then after that, I’ll want – that’s how life goes, isn’t it? It’s a never-ending cycle of wants. As soon as we achieve one dream, we have succeeded, but that success is transient. It diminishes the minute a new target comes up.
It is what we do for the people in our lives that is important. If we can reach out to people in such a way that they cry for us when we die, I think we will have achieved the definition of success. The only way to do this is to be kind and genuine, to keep the interests of other people alongside our own.
No one person can define success or happiness for anyone else. One has to find one’s own path. My take on success is – to be simple and take life as it comes, and to help people I meet smile more.
If I do this, I will have achieved my definition of success.
How do you define your success?