What Is Success?

Drop of waterThree times in the last two days, conversations with friends have turned to the question, “What is success?” It’s a good question. How do you measure it? Coincidentally, the same question was the timed writing topic this week at the Sunday afternoon writing workshop Jen Richards hosts at her soon-to-be closed (sigh) Worthington consignment store, On Second Thought, whose great success has been as a community gathering spot with Jen at the helm. Anyway, here’s my 10-minute shot at answering the question. I’d love to hear yours.

Success is not measured in dollars or inventories of adult toys or even inventories of impressive adult connections.

The best measure is in ripples. Those likely unplanned and unintended, who-woulda’- thought moments of impact that one life has on another.

The ripple could be a memory – a snapshot of some selfless act that pushes us to do the same. Or some lingering phrase powered by so much wisdom that years after, a grandchild or even some innocent bystander might be moved to extraordinary kindness or optimism or even heroism from having heard it.

It’s funny. We don’t act as if success will be measured in this way. Instead, we amass, we connect, we study, as if we’ll be measured by our possessions or influence or an exam grade.

The fact is, we can collect and network and dissect the theory of relativity but we might have as much influence serving coffee in a diner – offering a drop of support that pulled someone back from the edge or the encouragement that nudged someone else to greatness.

This is not to say traditional measures of success are bad. It’s fine to drive the Lexus or pilot your private plane. Every once in a while, though, to keep things in perspective, it might be a good idea to skip a stone across a pond.

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