We Take a Stand

How Relative Really Is Success?

3 min read

By Bob Acebedo | Published: October 22, 2020


Time is measured in terms of the earth’s rotation on its axis as it orbits around the Sun. At any given time, it is sunrise on one side of the globe but sunset on the other; still, in both sides, simultaneously happening is the present.

The same is true with success. One’s present state or situation may be a past or future for others, or one’s “here” may be a “there” for others, but a certain level of success is assigned to each one, depending on one’s circumstances, talents and struggles.

And they occur not without a reason.

But how do we define “success”?

A simple definition is: Success may be understood as a “realization or attainment of our goals, desires, endeavours, or aspirations – be they big or small, grand or simple.”


Rising From Within

Varying from one person to another, such goals or aspirations may come in different forms and levels – e.g. having much money, a big house, an expensive car, a job promotion, a lucrative salary, finishing college, earning a master’s or doctoral degree, a glamorous social status, getting into a political office of influence or power.

By this definition, it is obvious that success or the sense of fulfilment varies from one individual to another.

An important word of caution though: Do not define and measure your success by the standard of others. Do not be driven by greed or by envy.

Let your measure of success emanate from your life’s purpose and your heart’s genuine longing or aspiration.

Then you will realize that happiness lies in your heart and rises from therein.


Follow Your Dream

Erik McClure, a software architect, illustrates this point with these beautiful words: “Climbing a mountain is not that impressive when you start half a mile from the peak. On the other hand, if you start all the way at the bottom, climbing the whole thing is very impressive…

“Poor people have a huge range of difficulties that are hard to appreciate unless one experiences them first hand. They are just as successful as I am – they just started farther down. When I see an artist barely managing to make ends meet, I see success.

“When I see a musician living in a rundown apartment and paying rent, I see accomplishment. When I see a writer making ends meet with few odd commissions, I see tenacity.

“Our culture heaps scorn on those who do what they love and barely manage to make a living out of it without realizing how brutally difficult this is to do so. Simply managing to feed yourself by following your dream is an accomplishment on par with finishing a master’s degree.”


Relativity Of Success

Taking a cue from McClure, I am presenting these examples of the relativity of success:

  1. You may not have a 6-digit salary, but your needs are reasonably met – that is success.
  2. Your house may not be as big and plushy, but you’re able to live peacefully and sleep soundly at night – that is an accomplishment.
  3. You may not have glamorous social stature, but you have the luxury of time enjoying your privacy and personal peace – that is priceless and rewarding.
  4. You may not have a master’s or doctoral degree, but you are decently educated in the school of life by treating everyone fairly and with respect – that’s a profession worth earning.
  5. You may not be in a powerful political office, but in your own way you serve and help others – that is genuine service, and success.


More Than Success

In sum, we should view success not in terms of satisfying our wants but our needs; not in merely having or acquiring, but in being happy in doing and accomplishing what we love; not in attaining a high position, but in finding significance or meaning in what we do.

The bottomline is not merely to go after success, but to be happy in what we have and what we do. Happiness is more significant than success – it is finding meaning and purpose in our life.

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