What is “success?”
I was feeling rather unsuccessful. I had my hours cut back at work, and when I think about my disposable income after paying the bills I am responsible for; I have less “allowance,” adjusted for inflation, than I did in high school. I drive a PT Cruiser (which I really DO like!) and it’s built on the same wheel base as a Dodge Dart, which is what I drove in high school and college. Actually there is a new Dodge Dart coming out and it’s really cute! But in a way I feel, can’t I get a leg up in the world?
This success is measured in monetary terms only, and I remind myself that real success is measured in terms of relationships.
Barbara Bush spoke to a Wellesley College commencement in 1990 and she said this (excerpted from her speech)
The third choice that must not be missed is to cherish your human connections: your relationships with family and friends. For several years, you've had impressed upon you the importance to your career of dedication and hard work, and, of course, that's true. But as important as your obligations as a doctor, lawyer or business leader will be, you are a human being first and those human connections --- with spouses, with children, with friends -- are the most important investments you will ever make.
At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a child, a friend or a parent.
You can find this link at http://www.wellesley.edu/PublicAffairs/Commencement/1990/bush.html
I remember reading this in print at the time. I was 37. It truly affected me.
When I feel like I have not achieved what I could have professionally, I remember the challenge, investment and pure joy of raising children; of working in church and community, and just having A LOT of friends! (Our families are not small either; there is a bunch of those people!)
When folks get together, and if we are honest, we all do it; they talk about their jobs and by implication, the money they have made or are making, and I don’t feel that I have measured up. Then I remember that I never would have believed I could manage a web site, write a BLOG, manage large events and stay married to one person for life! These are all achievements, and to be honest, they are all “connection” oriented.
I think it behooves us all to ask ourselves what we have done in life that really counts beyond our lifespan. We will leave our money behind, but what have we done to invest in the future generations: our kids and grandkids and those others that life puts in our path, neighbors, church and extended family? Have we taught them compassion, honesty, and integrity? That is the real question.
I know my Presbyterian roots are sticking out when I say that ultimately, according to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, “Man’s (insert woman’s) chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” Did we do that, and teach others to also? If so, we have lived a successful life!
As a postscript, during my time at the art museum, one of the Board members, took me to a luncheon of her sorority alumni, and we all went to the "Princess Diana" exhibit at the Dayton Art Institute. We were asked to bring a picture of someone we admired to the luncheon. She and I DID NOT TALK about this, and we both brought pictures of Barbara Bush! We had a good laugh about it. I miss her.