How we define it moves us in that direction
Personally, spiritually, professionally, economically, socially, and politically we’re all climbing ladders toward “success.” What prompted the selection of this image for contemplation was hearing someone in a television commercial ask, “What do all artists seek?” His answer: “Recognition.” Ugh! I couldn’t let that go.
Did Michelangelo sculpt and paint to be recognized—or for money? What about Vincent Van Gogh or any of the masters of Eastern and Western civilizations? Twenty-first century, Western culture is so saturated with materialistic, competitive, end-product and celebrity values it’s hard for us to imagine anyone defining success as other than fame and fortune.
Case in point: My wife, Linda, observed that in an English class discussion her students said what they valued most was “making a contribution.” Ten years later the consensus was wanting to be known—famous. The latter perspective was echoed in my own teaching experience.
Since we largely define success for ourselves—consciously or unconsciously, I thought I would share some of the observations on the subject that I collected as quotes. Before presenting them, however, a perspective that I feel is important and missing from these perspectives is that success for many people is achieved more through process than product, particularly when the activity is aligned with their purpose. Not just “doing,” but “being”— why they’re here, on this planet. As noted on the home page, I write and photograph to feed my soul. Anything that may come of it for others is just “icing on the cake.” I know I’m not alone in this. So here’s what conventionally successful people said about it.
To laugh often and much; 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 little better; whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life was breathed easier because you have lived. This is the meaning of success.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, philosopher
My mother said to me, ‘If you are a soldier, you will become a general. If you are a monk, you will become the Pope.’ Instead, I was a painter, and became Picasso.
Pablo Picasso, artist, painter
History has shown that the success of cultures and even of great civilizations is measured by the way they deal with crises; the greater the challenge, the greater the opportunity for positive response. The same is true for individuals.
George Leonard, author, social scientist
Individual success depends on environments that trigger the fulfillment of our genetic potential. Environments that motivate through fear literally shut down the potential for growth. Those that motivate through vision, open us up to express unforeseen possibilities.
Bruce Lipton, biologist
The key to modern success is human resources. How well you educate, train, and treat people in your society becomes more important than the coal you dig, trees you fell, or rivers you dam.
Herbert Striner, Economist, educator
We now have the technology, the resources and the know-how to make this world a 100% success for every human being on Earth.
R. Buckminster Fuller, engineer-philosopher
The soul of an enterprise bonds it together as one force giving it identity, purpose, direction and a reason for being… Many pooh-pooh the reality and value of soul in the corporate world but it is truly amazing how, given the same business circumstances, some companies do so much better than others. It is not soul that assures success, but it is the presence of soul that unifies the mission to achieve success… Companies with soul never lose sight of one thought – If you are not making history, you are history!
Bob MacDonald, Author, science journalist
Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.
Albert Einstein, scientist