Defining Success

A man in a car, trapped in traffic yelling at his cell phone above labeled Successful Man, and a man walking with a smile on his face below labeled Unsuccessful Man.

As I was reviewing the posts from the week, I started to notice a theme related to success, and it reminded me of the above cartoon. I enjoy most of Andy Singer’s work, for both its style and message, and this message got me thinking about how I define the success of my life.  Three key points come to mind, with some thoughts about how they relate to the image:

  1. I’m able to provide for my family.  This doesn’t mean that we need to be rich.  It means that we can meet our basic needs. Walking and biking are two perfectly acceptable means of transportation (though we do travel by car).
  2. I have a positive influence on the lives of others.  I realize that this won’t always be the case, but in general, I want to help others reach their potential and live happy and productive lives.  Minimizing my impact to the planet and setting a positive example are two ways that I can do this.  Not yelling at others and being angry with them is another.
  3. I keep a positive approach to how I live my life and to recognize the gift of life.  Taking the time to walk, smile, and enjoy the company of my family (human and non-human) is a key element in accomplishing this goal.

I’m not always successful in meeting all of these goals, especially the last two, but I give it my best each day.  And on the days that I’m not successful, I try to learn and adapt so that tomorrow is better.  Sure, I make mistakes and wish that I could take things back, but when I think it through, I’m not sure that’s such a good idea.

Every significant mistake or action I’d like to take back has created an important learning opportunity.  If I erase the event as if it never happened, I’ll lose the benefit of the lesson learned. No thanks.  My mistakes enable my success, so I’d rather keep them with me.

I think that most people within American culture have goals similar to those I’ve outlined above, though I’ve definitely met many that have the materialistic definition of success implied in Singer’s cartoon.

How do you define success in your life?  Is it different from, or aligned with, your culture’s definition of success?

8 thoughts on “Defining Success

      1. Waywardspirit

        This is how we redefine ourselves and create new worlds.
        Smartest most creative people are often maladjusted. They ask too many questions. Feel to many questions.
        Rather than letting our artists starve what should we do?

      2. Chris Post author

        Yes, I agree that by “losing the rat race” (which I interpreted as losing the desire to compete within common American culture), we are, to use your words, redefining ourselves and creating new worlds. How we do this in the face of such a strong competing force is a great question. Off the top of my head, I think that we need to create a culture that celebrates not only questions, but the change that questions generate (the new worlds). It’s very easy to say and much more difficult to accomplish.

        I think it starts with each individual interaction and grows from there. It starts from within our own subcultures. I saw on the news tonight that 58% of Americans now favor same-sex marriage. It took a long time, and there is still a long way to go, but think that about that number. More than half. Five years ago that would be unthinkable. And, though this is old news, an African-American president was elected to a second term as President of the United States.

        Both of the above examples are, to my mind, the work of subcultures keeping at it and working tirelessly to help others see their truth. Different paths were tried, dead ends were reached and courses redirected, and people suffered. But persistence pays off.

        I suspect that you are already creating a subculture that is driving the change you want to see in the world. What are the things that you are doing to celebrate questions and define new worlds? How can you help others do the same? Perhaps in small, incremental steps, you can lead others to your truth and ensure that our artists starve no more. There are likely several ways to get to that place, and I’m not sure any of us can know any of those paths. The only thing that I think we can do is live by example. What does that example look like for you? How can you help others understand it and make a transition?

        (I love the idea of “feeling questions.” I’ve never heard it spoken that way before – thank you for that gift.)

      3. Waywardspirit

        Sorry I missed this!
        What a waste of days I allowed.
        Would you please, please please post this comment on my blog!
        I’ll answer and post on both.
        Was just looking on my comments tab for stray anything I missed. Who knew I missed the train!
        And you are awesome!!!
        Question awsome. You know, were the art is.

      4. Chris Post author

        No worries or apologies…I’m just happy that the words resonate.

        How/where would you like this comment posted?

      5. Waywardspirit

        Would you please paste it on the front page: Competition.
        That would make my day. And my day has been fantastic!
        I found a lost note from you today.
        Best comment ever.
        Thank so much.

      6. Chris Post author

        Just pasted into the comments on your Competition thread…thanks for the kind words. You have a unique way – I like that you’re around.

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