Legions of successful people emerge every day in all walks of life and millions “follow” them through Twitter, Facebook, Linked-In and other social media channels etc. Actors, politicians, business leaders, educators, community influencers or just “regular guys who have made it big” end up becoming iconic role models for others, whether of their own volition or having the elevated status thrust upon them.
Dictionaries typically define Success as “the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors; the accomplishment of one’s goals; attainment of wealth, position, honors; a performance or achievement that is marked by the attainment of honors, goals, wealth” etc.
Often, we hear people say, “Just 33 and already a VP, success seems to have gone to her head”, or “Their son has really done very well; went to Harvard and is now a top investment banker” and “He was useless at school and college, but look at him now; managing a multi-million dollar company” or that “Their marriage is such a success, even after 30 years!”
So, what is success?
Is there some broad definition or do we use our personal yardstick to define what success means to us individually? Do we choose monetary value, social standing, corporate stature or something else to determine success? Is it a tangible measure or does the limit get blurred beyond a point? Is there an end-point – the so-called “pinnacle of success”, or does the goalpost move as one draws closer to it?
Does striving for success also foster ambition or greed, or does it work the other way around? Is it something we want or is it a need, linked in some subconscious manner to the human survival instinct? To what lengths are we prepared to go to succeed? Does it turn into a “no-holds-barred winner take all” race? What is the personal price one is willing to pay to achieve success?
We often talk of work-life balance, but usually seek to convince ourselves it is just this corner that is to be negotiated or merely one additional road bump to be tackled and the road will then level off for a smooth ride thereafter. Each person has his/her own motivation to propel them towards their self-stated goal, with an underlying urgency to “get there” and succeed within the self-imposed time limits.
I recently had lunch with a friend whom I had not seen for over a year, so there was a lot of catching up to do. She is a very successful business person, who has been scaling the corporate totem pole rapidly. A mother with young children, she pursues many different interests that help her engage in activities with her kids, husband, siblings and parents. While she is able to balance her life, there are challenges and it becomes difficult to keep all the balls in the air without getting breathless. “Some days it feels good just thinking of walking away from it all. What is there left to prove and who do I have to demonstrate it to?” she confided.
I see many real-life success story heroes around us each day. Young parents who balance daily lives between caring 24/7 for young children and their activities, supporting parents and friends, contending with household chores while juggling increasingly demanding careers. Their real success I believe, is in providing a nurturing environment and the right values that will help propel our next generation towards a caring, just and equitable society that is not driven by purely selfish goals.
And finally, the rewards of success? My grandmother used to remind us that nature teaches us humility, “The more fruit a tree is laden with, the lower its branches bend. This is the tree’s way to express gratitude for being able to share its bounty while giving everyone easier access to its fruit. Just as the soil, water, seeds and sun come together to produce the fruit that the tree merely delivers, remember you only get noticed because everyone around you lifts and carries you on their shoulders.”
“Vo Laakh saamne ho.n magar iss kaa kyaa ilaaj
Dil maantaa nahii.n nazar kaamyaab hai”
[What might be the remedy, when in spite of my beloved being present before me
The heart refuses to accept that my vision is successful (favored by her sight)] – Jigar Moradabadi