The True measure of Success (published on Oct.7th, 2008)


Sometime back, a friend of ours told us that a certain person we know had remarked to him that we were not as successful as compared to X. When I heard this, I was furious. I had in one instant summoned all the data and statistics to prove our success in my head.

The piquing remark continued to ring in my head but, even as I wondered what had led the particular individual to make such an observation, I had also begun to feel he was right. His remark made everything we had achieved seem so meaningless. That was when I stopped brooding and looked back at our journey.

When I was a kid, the greatest achievement was when I topped my class – I called it success. Then, I was successful when I did fairly well in college, got married to the one I love, bought the house of our dreams, had a kid and travelled. Every time, we reached a milestone, we felt successful. Whenever the picture of success seemed to fade, a new goal seemed to stir our interest. We believed we were successful as long as we could reach milestones.

Feel-good factor

However, these were never achievements whose measure of success was influenced by others’ expectations of us.

Every time, we reached a milestone, we didn’t call people to announce our success, because it was a “success” for us, and would not mean anything to anyone. We are as successful as we think we are – we had always believed. Sometime back, I had worked on something very hard, and it was well received by a small section of people.

I was over the top. It was not a big deal. I had not made a million dollars but I was happy. People could have been forgiven for laughing at the party I threw to celebrate the occasion. Success was when we worked on something and it made us happy. It was/is worth toiling for only if it guarantees feel-good.

It amazes me how we can spend recklessly on our kids or how our parents gladly wear a torn shoe to work after having spent hard-earned money on something that caught our fancy and how it rubs off as success while others don’t relate to it the same way.

Unfortunately, today, success has come to bear some sort of direct connection to one’s career. When we work hard and then stop at some point to reflect on the paths traversed and if we are relatively happy, we deem ourselves successful.

Little things

It is the journey that matters and not the destination. We shouldn’t deny ourselves the little pleasure along the way. We all derive satisfaction from doing our own little things and we could learn to attach pride to simple achievements instead of seeking endorsement from others for our endeavours. The sooner we understand this, the easier it is for us to lead our lives.

Of course, I learnt my lesson after much agonising over the perceived slight from the “certain person”. We eventually managed to laugh off his remarks smug in the knowledge he had no means to pass sentence on what we had achieved in our lives. He had to be forgiven for his mistake!


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