Art by Autumn Hardwick
What is success? It could be the amount of figures in your salary. The paycheck at the end of the week. The followers count on social media. It might be the view from your penthouse office you stare out at as your feet are elevated on your desk. Or, it could be the nights you spend dancing around your kitchen with the love of your life and your kids.
Whatever success is to you, there is no straightforward definition — there is no one idea that defines success. I believe success to be an unidentifiable feat that everyone uses as measurement of life. However, success in the lives of others varies, as it has in my own.
“The fact that you have achieved something that you want and have been trying to do or get,” is how the Oxford Dictionary defines success.
Within that definition, successful lives can look very different.
Success in Monetary Deliverance
One societal stereotype the world sees is that success equates financial gain. The richest men and women are some people’s inspirations: Oprah Winfrey, Jordan Belfort, Jacqueline Mars and Jeff Bezos. Most of these women and men — and ones not mentioned — created businesses, empires, companies, productions or projects that made them millions to billions of dollars. That is something to be revered.
Success can truly be seen in the form of money. Think of the age-old tale of a single parent struggling alone to raise a child with two jobs. When that paycheck comes at the end of a long work week or two, it is a success.
Something many Pepperdine students can relate to is applying for scholarships to help with university tuition. When a student gets that email notification confirming that their essay, video or audition was good enough to grant the money to pay for college, it can be a milestone success in a person’s life.
Success in a Feeling
It’s been two grueling hours full of treacherous terrain, uphill paths and many swarms of bees. You can see the cross at the top of the hill.
The iconic hike to the cross in Malibu is a “must for any Pepperdine student,” but the difficulty of the trail can be strenuous on those who participate. The feeling of finally reaching the top, touching the white-stained cross and peering out over the Pacific Ocean is the emotional feeling of accomplishment and success to a participant of the hike.
Success can also be equated with a feeling of freedom: freedom to choose, freedom to learn and freedom to create. Actor Robert DeNiro spoke about success in regard to actors, although he said the advice can be applied to everybody’s exploration of creativity in life.
“Feel loose enough to create what you want to create, and be free to try anything,” DeNiro said.
The feeling of success can be bottled into a jar of paint, packaged in an empty canvas or served in a bag of brushes. It can be the feeling a band has when they hear fans singing their lyrics back to them for the first time. Success can be nearly any feeling a person has longed for and worked hard for.
Success is Love
The final, but certainly not forgotten, leg of the success tour is success as love. Not everyone is lucky enough to be born into a loving family or a stereotypically whole family. However, what a person makes of their situation — no matter how dire it might be — can emulate love and success on a more personal level.
When people near the end of their life, questions of what kind of legacy they left, impact they made or what they will be remembered for are likely swirling around their mind. Sometimes people might associate those types of questions with success. This leaves the ultimate question to be: What kind of success have they had in their life?
I’ve discussed the feelings, the money and the fame; however, the most important is the love that surrounds somebody in their life and the happiness that comes with it. The family created, bringing a new child into the world, the union in marriage, friendships that last a lifetime and the love of God on His people every day is what I define has successful.
If you have this, you have all the success in the world, because even if you have every thing in life, but no love, you have nothing.
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Email Emily Chase: firstname.lastname@example.org