Monday, October 25, 2010

What is Success?

Emily Dickinson delved into deep thought in the poem “Success is Counted Sweetest.” The term success is examined from a context in which it is not usually looked at. After reading this poem, broader, yet important questions come to mind: what is success and how is it measured? Dickinson’s poem gives great insight into these two questions.

“Success is counted sweetest/By those who ne’er succeed.” This line seems so counterintuitive if you read it just once. The speaker is saying that one who never succeeds knows best what success really is. To me, this very line could be translated directly into the old cliché that “you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.” Success is something that winners never understand. Only the one who looses understands what is it to succeed—simply because they don’t succeed. Those who loose understand it best because it is something that is missing, and the speaker is asserting that you understand what something is best when you don’t have it. The speaker says, “To comprehend a nectar/Requires sorest need.” To understand success, one must not have it at a certain point.

So what really is success and how is it measured? Success can mean many things to many different people. My answer would be that success cannot be measured by the amount of money one has, the car a person drives, the school they go to, or the clothes they wear—success is so much deeper than that; it’s achievement, happiness, and comfort. Achievement in all that you do, happiness in your life and surroundings, and comfort in where you are, where you have been, and where you want to go. That’s what success is all about. I would take achievement, happiness, and comfort over any material thing any day—because in the end, material things are just that, they are just things. How success is measured is buried in the definition. It’s measured by where we want to be in our own lives. That makes success a very broad term, and gives it a different meaning to every individual.

We should all obviously aim for success. But first, each person much dig deep to find out what success really means to them. For some, it may be about making a million dollars a year and having nice things, for others it may simply be happiness. Whatever success is to that person, they must aim to achieve and maintain it.

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