the one about success

This morning I had a conversation with a good friend about  measuring the success of a program we are both a part of.  And what that looks like.  All day my head has reverted back to that one word, echoing in my mind, success.  Thinking of what it is, what it looks like, how we define it.  I sat down tonight and looked up the official definition.  


: the fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect, or fame

: the correct or desired result of an attempt

: someone or something that is successful : a person or thing that succeeds

My definition is a little different.


As elusive to define as it is to attain

Some say it looks like three piece suits

and smells like money

or expensive cologne

Some say it is a leather briefcase and

all three of your names on a business card

I once knew and loved someone who said

success was retiring a millionaire

at age 35

That definition killed him

as the struggle to make it happen

and the sense of failure as 35 came and went

were too much to bear

My friend finds success in each day, hour, minute

that she doesn’t lapse

take a drink

She writes poems and soon she will see them in print

She says, Success! with a capital “s” and an exclamation point

just like that

My friend who can’t not take a drink

at least today

and probably tomorrow

thinks success is each day he awakes and isn’t dead

or worse

Any other idea of success would be unattainable

and set him up for failure

So he thinks.

I watch the girl for whom success is good grades and helping others

and I hear her wish for other things,

a significant other, the love of those around her

and my heart aches for her

One goal met only leads to wishing for the next one.

I know.

I’ve been there.

After years of defining success as happiness

or stability–financial, emotional, yes yes and yes

I finally sit down and nod my head

as I write,





Success is not letting the past grab my legs

and pull me back

like quicksand, not only holding me back

but dragging me down

Success is moving forward, even if millimeter

by millimeter

even if the past mocks and laughs and points at the direction I’m taking

Moving.  Onward.

Any day that a soul can look herself in the heart

and not turn away

that day is a success

When one can continue to dream, to wish, to strive

after taking hit after hit–

loss, grief, sadness, hurt, infidelity, betrayal, pain, brokenness–

and can still imagine, create, love, sing

all those colors and sounds and smells and things felt

not forgotten but stored and treasured

Those moments in life whisper, “success,” in a hushed awestruck voice

The volume is not important really

Nor is the exclamation point

Success does not have to be dollar signs or fancy cars

or any of those THINGS

Success is more about what can’t be seen

than what readily meets the eye

When the heart is at peace

success is measured in satisfaction,

in the sense of belonging in the place

one is

in that moment

Success is a reflection

of the heart

3 thoughts on “the one about success”

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