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Success: Aim or endeavor?

Huzaima Bukhari

“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value―Albert Einstein

The word ‘success’ has a variety of connotations relative to the age and desires of each human being. One size does not fit all because every one of us views success in a different perspective although in simplistic terms, success is the achievement of an aim or objective. A target is fixed. If it is arrived at, it amounts to success and if not, it is considered as failure. So more than success, it is the target that becomes the focal point of that perspective. We all have ambitions in our lives. These can vary from plain happiness to soaring heights of fame and wealth depending upon personal choices and aspirations. Those who manage to make their dreams come true are held successful since they are able to win their set races to the finish.

Observing the human nature one can aver with certainty that the majority are never satisfied with their lives. Those who have nothing crave for something, those who have, either want more or become anxious of losing whatever they have, many remain discontented despite living in affluence because of perhaps illnesses, dearth of family members, some physical disability, lack of recreational time or anything else that may not be purchasable while those who are way down the poverty line may just think of themselves as the most unfortunate of living beings even though some are found to be quite content with their destinies, however negative. Nonetheless, they do perhaps feel that they cannot be termed as successful compared to those who have attained their goals. Yet it can be called success when people manage to live within their means without having to borrow.

We tend to weigh success in the balance of other people’s achievements not bothering to hone our own efforts. Just like the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, we under-estimate our endeavours reckoning other’s as greater than our own. So, for example, if a person is seen as wealthy, we tend to move towards inferiority complex, backing out from exploring, failing to recognize our own blessings and the amount of struggle that may have been involved for that person in becoming rich. Michael Jordan admits that he became successful after failing again and again.

“The size of your success is measured by the strength of your desire; the size of your dream; and how you handle disappointment along the way,” says Robert Kiyosaki who probably had people like Marie Curie in his mind who valiantly face frustration upon frustration until their dreams come true. George S. Patton described these accomplishments as: “Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom.”

Similarly, if a question arises about what determines the success of lawyers or for that matter, any professional, the straightforward answer should be their competence, perseverance and absorption in their field of interest, not how much income they earn. This clearly means that success is based on one’s own abilities and not merely on other factors like conducive environment, influential families, vast networking etc. Indisputably, these are important support systems but they do not guarantee success because success is always doing one’s best.

The world of living human beings is poles apart from the idyllic life of our imagination. We would all love to have the perfect heavenly setting for ourselves where there are no disturbing elements but this kind of utopia can only exist in one’s imagination. The truth is that we must come to terms with the ferocity of ground realities and in order to be successful, set our targets accordingly. If these are based on facts and circumstances, there would be greater probability that the outcome would be as desired and even if the results are different from ones expected, still the road towards them would be marked as successful. The thought of realizing one’s dreams is the first step towards success. As Mike Ditka puts it: “Success isn’t measured by money or power or social rank. Success is measured by your discipline and inner peace.”

Incidentally, there are some negatives associated with success. Earl Wilson states: “Success is simply a matter of luck,” whereas Oscar Wilde considers success as: “A science. If you have the conditions, you get the result.” In the famous Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan’s opinion “Success is not a good teacher, failure makes you humble.” Even Bill Gates seems to concur with him. He says: “Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.” While Khan and Gates lament about success making some people arrogant and pushing some into delusion, Zig Ziglar, the late American motivational speaker highlights the importance of human nature in these words: “The foundation stones for a balanced success are honesty, character, integrity, faith, love and loyalty,” thus pointing out the traits that not only help produce positive results for venturers but brings out the human in them.

The upshot of this discussion is to emphasize the significance of compassion under all circumstances. Whether people are confronting failure, struggling towards their ambitions or savouring the triumph of their achievements, they should never let the human inside die. Success at the expense of befooling or hurting others is always short-lived. Like money, success is also a byproduct of one’s sincere and humane efforts in making the world a better place for other human beings. Wars, conflicts, hegemony, conspiracies etc. can generate success stories for some but breed horrible after-effects scarring the face of humanity forever.


The writer, lawyer and author, is an Adjunct Faculty at Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), member Advisory Board and Senior Visiting Fellow of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE)

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