Wednesday, March 16, 2005

What is success?

Don't we play around with this word so irresponsibly? Success in what? Isn't it so relative? Isn't it so personal? This word and its wrong usage by friends, teachers, parents and just about everybody has played havoc with people.. from children to elders... No one just notices it, that's all.

It all starts at home and school. This is the time. The exam season. CBSE, ICSE, state syllabus, class annual exams... from 12th standard down to.... nursery? The pressure is unbearable. A wanton murder of creative minds. A child with 90% is supposedly "more successful" than another with 60%. Maybe true, in a very narrow sense. Just in the context of that examination, which has nothing to do with the Test of Life.

And many parents and teachers make it out as if the 90% kid has conquered the world. That in turn sets off a series of complexes, not just among the small group of students who have undergone that particular test, but also among other children, who get a false concept of success.

The children's quiz programmes and other kids talent contests shown on TV do enormous damage in household after household. It's so different when kids come on stage. It's not like college students or adults. Haven't we seen parents tell their children: "Look at that kid on TV... You aren't half as good as him..." The damage, parents so silently and unintentionally inflict on their children in such a manner, is so enormous and its repercussions are long lasting. It is so far an undisputed scientific fact that the ability of adults to manage crises is a reflection of their formative years.

Not that you shouldn't care for your kids. Or, let them fail in exams. The point is: nurture what is divinely gifted to the child, rather than ignore it in a torturous pursuance of something that is just not in her. Don’t make her feel she is a failure, even before she has seen the true world.

Not just children. Teenagers, youth and full-grown adults: all are in a vicious pursuit of a misplaced sense of success. Designations. Money. Perks. Material possessions. Unfair comparisons with others. It's perfectly okay if people are happy in their pursuit of success. But mostly, they are not. A wild goose chase, in the mistaken belief than "pursuit of success" is the same as "pursuit of happiness".

A few years back, executives of a multi-level marketing company approached me and lectured me on how successful I could be if I joined them. Networking marketing. How I could be in the business of spreading happiness, without selling anything. How I myself and my family could be happy, how I could realise my dreams, how I could be free of all encumbrances (because money will keep flowing in, like royalty for a writer)...

I countered most of what they said. I must have been a difficult customer for them. They even sent a very senior guy (who is supposed to have made it big in Australia). He was at his persuassive best. I asked them how they could just presume... for example.. that I don't like serving my boss in my office... How could they presume I am unhappy and discontented. I asked them how could they define so authoritatively that making endless amounts of money is the only criterion of success in life...

But, finally, I joined them, not because I was convinced of what they told me. I told them I would join “to see how the stuff looks from inside, since you have spoken so much about its greatness” May be because of my prejudice, I was disgusted, and I quit within three months and got a refund of whatever I had paid...

But the dirty thing about it all is: they try to make you feel that ... if you don't take up their offer to join their marketing team, or quit later... you have a very pessimistic approach to life; you are not a go-getter, you are full of negative thoughts, basically you don’t want to be a success in life.

I have no complaints with Network Marketing and all the good they are doing. I hated their presumptions and persuassions. Be what you are, let others be what they are.

A year later, one of those guys came home, to see if I had a change of mind... Listening to my philosophy of life... he fled. But he promised to keep in touch. He hasn’t. He won’t, since I have a "negative influence” on him. Actually it’s quite positive for me, and him!

Success is how good you are as a human being,
how useful you are to other human beings,
how well you do those little things that make such a huge difference to people,
how well you can square up to a challenge,
how well you can take one step back and take two steps forward,
how well you can resolve a crisis,
how well you look at the long term and not the short term
how well you can smile even in the face of adversity,
how well you can bring a smile on the face of others too.

how happy you are... how peaceful you are with yourself.

Everything else is just a means to success, and not a success in itself.


  1. Dear P,
    I agree with every word you say. I have even taken a print-out of your posting.
    The MLM guys really put me off. One came to my house with a book of laminated sheets and started reading every page to me! "Do you think your daughter must be able to speak English like the Englishmen? Do you want her not to lag behind in the competitive world?" etc. When I refused to buy his product, he invited me for a "seminar" for which I would have to fork out Rs 1,000.
    All MLM chaps have a identical way of getting on your nerves. They somehow assume that money is everything.

  2. How i see myself there,lacks of students and teenagers there.As a kid my mom always wanted me to be the best,and for her best was to be at the top,goldmedals,100% not even 99%.i remember missing top rank in 9th by a mark,she dint speak to me for longtime until i got to the top again.
    but thankfully after tenth she gave me the independence to choose my groups,no Engineering or MBBS,and the tremors hit from other sides,there were my classmates who dont talk to me till date because i am not from IIT or BITS inspite me being a top ranker.they feel i wasted my life.and there is another group who were shocked to see me as a techer after my MBA,they say i ruined my the point is "did i" and the answer comes from with in "no" i did was is right,i made my life more successful,today i can reachout to hundreds of students who r in the same confusion abt what to do and where to go.and i feel so happy to be with them when they need any word from me.ya,i feel i am far more successful than a stressed money making machine kind of a offense,ideas differ:))) i have a software engineer brother who makes hell lot of money and feels i ruined my future by working as a teacher:)))

  3. Dinu, Thanks for taking a printout of my posting... that was really flattering!!!

  4. Neelima,
    Teaching is such a noble profession. It's a thankless job. I respect and admire the efforts they put in. You have a wonderful opportunity of interacting with students and spreading the right meaning and spirit of the word "success".

  5. Success: 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 bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded!
    This is what i can say about success. nice bloggin...

  6. Thanks for dropping by at post, Pradeep. Enjoyed reading it :) Iam glad the thoughts presented on my blog in a similar post strike a good, resonant chord with what's presented here.

  7. Dearest Pradeep,
    That was wonderfully written out ans am sure, will continue to have a lasting effect on all minds that have been reading it. It's an issue that so many of us feel so vehemently about, but supposedly lack the courage to face it and so we end up doing the same thing to our children too. As a mother I am trying to keep this point in mind while as a lecturer I am trying to stike the balance between potential and accomplishment. I wish to forward this article to some of my business-management students. Will check back on this. Looking forward to more of such write-ups!!
    Ms. Biju

  8. Thanks a lot Seena for those words of encouragement and appreciation. I don't think there will ever be an end to the discussion on the definition of success!