BRADY COLUMN: How to define success

Published 9:30 am Wednesday, December 14, 2022

How do you spell success? How do I spell it? A retired business executive was once asked the secret of his success. He replied that it could be summed up in these words: “and then some.” “I discovered at an early age,” he said, “that most of the difference between average people and top people could be explained in three words. The top people did what was expected of them-and then some. “They were thoughtful of others-and then some. They met their obligations and responsibilities fairly and squarely-and then some. They were good friends to to their friends-and then some. They could be counted on in an emergency-and then some.

Dennis Waitley, a national authority on high-level performance and personal development, lists in his book “Seeds of Greatness” the ten best kept secrets of total success. According to Waitley, they are “self-esteem, creativity, responsibility, wisdom, purpose, communication, faith, adaptability. perseverance, and perspective.”

But how do you spell success? How do I spell it? Success means different things to different people. Success also means different things to us at different times in our lives. And sometimes we cannot even define what we mean by success. When Hamilton College celebrated its centennial, one of its most famous alumni, Alexander Woollcott, was asked to give a major address. Woollcott opened his speech this way: “I send my greetings today to all my fellow alumni of Hamilton College, scattered all over the world. Some of you are successful and some of you are failures-only God knows which are which.”

In the rest of this article, I’d like to point out three characteristics of success any way you look at it. 

First, gratitude! In reality, there are no self-made people. Everyone who has ever accomplished anything has received help from others. Everyone of us has had friends or family who strengthened us by believing in us and giving us encouragement.

When a running back makes a long run, there is almost always a key block that springs him loose. Some strong lineman clears the way. A sense of gratitude accompanies every real achievement.

Second, humility! Most of us have what seems to be an “inborn drive” for success. Yet most of us find it harder to deal with success than with failure. So often we become unbalanced when success comes our way. We start to read our own press clippings, as they say. Thus, we will always need God’s guidance so that we might carry our success gracefully. We recall it was Christ, “who thought he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:6,7).

Third, excellence! There is one standard of success that is always the same: “Have you done the very best you could?” A woman told a concert pianist after a recital, “I’d give half of my life to be able to play the piano that well.” The pianist responded, “Madam that’s exactly what I have done.” If there is any word successful people despise, it is the word “mediocrity.” They refuse to just get by with half efforts. Malcom Muggeridge titled his short biography of Mother Teresa “Something Beautiful for God.” And that’s the way all of us should carry on our work, whatever it is and however it goes.