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Success has many facets : How to interpret?

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Life  is an endeavour

Life to majority of us is an endeavour to achieve success, which in its turn becomes the reason of our sense of fulfillment and happiness. Success has, nevertheless, one thousand meanings and connotations. In different times and different situations success has its own meaning and connotation.  However, there are some universal elements that define success. Success means realizing the goals set by us. Success may be defined as getting anything that one aims at, for example, wealth, power, name, fame and recognition.

The perception of success is subjective and relative. For a hungry and starving man, getting food is success. But, for a well off man getting nutritionally rich and tastier food is success. For a poor man getting wherewithal for basic minimum needs of life is success. But, for a rich man fashion and style is success.  For an illiterate basic alphabet and writing his name is success. But, for educated getting a good job or writing books is success. For a student passing his examination with a higher grade is success. But, for a homeless, getting a shelter is success. For a political party, winning elections is success;but, for a sportsman winning a medal is success. For a moderately well- off person more wealth is success, for a beggar getting some alms is success. For a saint, success is his uninterrupted spiritual experiences and meditation. For a social activist, service to society is supreme success.

Success is subjective and relative

 The perception and reality about ‘point zero’ and ‘final destination or goal’ differ in different cases. So do their aspirations and definitions. Anything which turns out according to our plans and wishes is success. If things go otherwise, we presume it as failure. If our efforts pay, it is success and if they do not lead to our goals, we take it as failure. When we win a bet in life, it is called success, otherwise it is failure.

The perceptions of success to different people differ because they have different meanings of their lives (values) and their expected outcomes (expectations) are also different.  Life is a pleasant journey for some; it is a dicey game for others. It is a pilgrimage for some; a mission for others. It is an exciting adventure for some; a monotonous and onerous errand for others. Without entering into the debate how our perceptions and values are made, let’s agree that people seek different meanings and outcomes from their lives and judge their success and failure accordingly.

In a broader perspective, success cannot be interpreted either on the basis of material or non material (spiritual) basis. Even if we long for material success, the end product that we seek is happiness. Likewise even if we seek non-material or spiritual success, the end result that we seek is happiness. Then the question arises that isn’t the most encompassing definition of success is that ‘what gives happiness’?

It is broadly true that if we succeed in our efforts and achieve what we cherish, it brings happiness therefore, success. But should we say without any condition that success is what brings happiness? Say for example, if we become happy if our competitors or enemies are in trouble or problem? Can we say that vicarious pleasure we derive from some negative thinking, idea or action is happiness? In fact anything negative brings ephemeral or transitory sense of pleasure, which is not happiness.

Pleasure is short lived and often free from values. Happiness has a positive and lasting impact on us as well as all those who relate to us. Happiness is driven by positive values.  Pleasure may be driven by ‘envy, jealousy and over indulgence. Happiness, on the other hand, is driven from a sense of achievement, fulfillment and other positive human feelings such as giving, enduring, helping, supporting etc. Somebody has rightly said, “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.”

How do we achieve success?

There are two approaches to success. Black box approach in which we do not care about anything between our beginning point and goal, all that matters to us is covering this journey faster and sooner. We do not care how many rules we break and how many people we hurt and what is our means or method (pure or impure/ good or bad). To us the end justifies the means.

On the other hand there is white box approach wherein we optimize our efforts and strategize, but always keep in mind the purity of means and method, standard parameters as well as ensure that while progressing ahead towards our goals we do not crush the innocent or even our detractors. The quality of success through black box approach and white box approach differ a great deal. The former gives a sense of guilt and stealing. The latter gives a sense of achievement and fulfillment. The former is short- lived. The latter is lasting. It is rightly said that success is simple. Do what’s right, the right way, at the right time. The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.

Success and failures are alternate cycles in everybody’s life. What matters is that we keep walking towards our goals. It does not matter we are walking fast or slow or how many times we are falling and rising. Success is enjoying what we are doing because when we enjoy our work, we are also able to endure pains. And since it is cyclic in nature, success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. Defeat is not the worst of failures. Not to have tried is the true failure.

Paulo Coelho says that ‘the beauty of life is that you fall seven times and get up eight times’. Success is enjoying the ‘journey’, the ‘process’, ‘the experiences’, of what you are doing and pursuing. Great religious book the Bhagavat Geeta also endorses that we should do our karmas without the desire of fruits. It is a difficult thing to do.  But by practicing and meditating, we can realize this state of mind. Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines, practiced every day.

Failures are the pillars of success. Those who do not commit the sin to look back and repent, those who endure difficult situations and umpteen defeats, and those who keep cool and confident, keeping their goals into their dreams unperturbed are bound to generate invincible and unfathomable hope, faith and courage in their thought and deed which finally bring success to them. Winston Churchill rightly said- Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm. And he added- Even if you are passing through a hell, keep walking!

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