A friend was astonished recently when I told him that I had copied a passage from a novel into my notebook several years ago. He couldn’t understand what would make a person do something so seemingly pointless! But the words I had read (and rewritten, and later reread) were so fascinating that I didn’t know any other way to make them a part of my reality. A small part of the passage, coming out of a Penny Vincenzi novel read this way:
“ …suddenly, none of that mattered. She had done it, she had made it all on her own, she was that most elusive, sought after, fought over thing - a success. Beyond anything she could have imagined. She just could not, she would not, give that up.”
In summary it was the point at which a woman had, after some internal struggle, achieved a level of success that gave her great satisfaction as well as monetary reward. It spoke of the addictive feeling that both money and power gave her and of the pleasure that came out of defiance and resilience.
Of course the idea of “making it on her own” is in many ways a myth. No one really makes it without other people supporting, making opportunities available, understanding and endorsing them. Everybody needs somebody, whether they recognise it or not.
And then of course there is that age old question of what success itself is. For some, like the woman in Vincenzi’s novel, it is all about money and power and status. Sometimes even having those things is not enough until society at large gives recognition in the form of a reward such as an award, a political appointment, a seat at the table.
For others, it is the gap between where they started and where they have come to that defines the fact that they are now successful. Many stories of rags to riches hinge on the subject’s humble roots as a point of contrast with the final radiant destination.
What we often forget though, is that success is only a point or a number of points along the total journey of our lives. Unless we are measuring a person’s success at the very end of their lives, the point before and the point after success are open to anything happenning. To have achieved success is not a guarantee of being successful forever. To quote Winston Churchill, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
Some people measure their success by the number of people whose lives they have touched along the way. They measure their impact by the ways in which they have made things better for others. In Albert Einstein’s words, “Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to be a man of value.”
In the final analysis, perhaps the one thing which tops the sweet smell of success is happiness.
Southern sister - Sunday 29 September 2013
I write to lend you my courage, to help you find the words for the things you feel, but are not yet ready to say. I write to tell the stories of our time, and to edify those whose stories I tell and their audiences.