The Measure of Success Tuesday, Jan 17 2023 

The definition of success is curious to me. Is it number based, such as our financial worth, how many boards we serve on, how much product we’ve sold, or how many children we have? Perhaps, it is title based, such as president, CEO, pastor, or doctor. Or is success the achievement of a personal goal, whatever that may be?

Most of us are critical of our self-assessment of success. For example, our goal may have been to become a professional singer. If our calendar is filled with dates does that indicate that we are successful? Or must we also consider how much we are paid for these bookings and the types of gigs we work?

One truth I found while interviewing hundreds of people through the years is that if someone has achieved greatness in a particular field, they likely have little to show in other parts of their lives. We only have so many hours in a day, so many days in our life to achieve this goal. If we devote 90% to one thing, we can’t put in more than 10% anywhere else.

While attending a television award ceremony years ago, I realized that those who received honors for their tremendous levels of success in a role on or behind the scenes honestly noted that they reached that level because of someone, mostly a spouse or life partner, who carried the load at home. They were able to focus entirely on their career because someone was behind them caring for the home, children, and even their personal needs. Their partner actually was equal in accomplishing that goal for one of them.

Some note that their personal success appears to be minimal to others yet is significant to them, such as maintaining sobriety, feeling positive or grateful, or regaining strength. Personal tragedy, injury, or illness may have robbed them of mobility, hope, or motivation. Getting back on track one minute step at a time may be a tremendous achievement for these people.

Perhaps, success is attaining a full package of work/family/life balance. We are doing well at work. We care for our family whole-heartedly. And we care for our personal needs considering what it takes to maintain a healthy body, mind, and spirit. That isn’t likely to put us at the top in any one particular position. But we are invested in all parts of our lives.

Recently, I was speaking with a wise, intuitive acquaintance. I told him that I was disappointed in my book sales. Several of my titles sold well, some are even considered best sellers at my publishing house. But none were going to cover my living expenses, much less the years it took to write them.

This new friend pointed out that books are written to fulfill a need in the author. Also, many of the books I’d written were helpful, even said to be life-changing, for readers. Those books helped more than I could measure because of the ripple effect—the number of people who were helped because of how the book affected that reader who then reached out to others. According to this acquaintance, that made a book successful.

It then appears that how we measure our success is a personalized assessment meaningful to us. Only we can set our goals and strive to attain them. Only we can honestly know if we are, and have done, what we’d hoped with our lives leaving behind a legacy of which we can hold our head up high.

***Here are a few of my “best-selling” and award-winning books: The Rosary Prayer by Prayer, Grieving with Mary, St. Theodora and Her Promise to God, Young in the Spirit, Navigating Alzheimer’s, The Alzheimer’s Spouse.

Self-Proclaimed Gold Medal Toilet Bowl Cleaner Friday, Aug 10 2012 

Watching athletes’ dedication, determination, and hard-work culminating into Olympic 2012 gold medals is exhilarating. Who doesn’t admire the young competitors as they push themselves to surpass all others in speed, agility, strength, and grace?

There are so many stories of athletic excellence. Women especially are attaining unprecedented levels. And then there is Michael Phelps. Come on now, winning 19 gold medals in a career is just showing off.

It all makes me wonder what I do better than anyone else. I sat down to make a list. After staring at the computer for several minutes I realize I have zip, zero, nada. Sure, there are a few things I do well – I can make a toilet sparkle – but there isn’t one thing I do that is worthy of world gold medal status.

And maybe that’s OK.

One thing I know from interviewing hundreds of people through my 40 plus years in writing is that those who attain extraordinary levels of achievement in a given area are very focused. Most of their energy is targeted at a particular point. That means that something, or everything, else has to give. You can’t devote 90% of your energy in one area and be very balanced.

A recent prestigious award ceremony reminded me of this point. Several recipients commented on how they were proud of their professional achievements but admit they weren’t much of a spouse or parent. How could they be if they were never home? Most of their waking hours were on the job.

My mom used to tell us she’d be satisfied if we were well-rounded “B” students with grade-A characters. She was more concerned about the people we were than what we did.

Whatever I do, I give it my best. I believe I’m obligated to care for the things and talents I’m blessed with but never more than the people in my life, and I’m greatly blessed with people. I’d love to write a best-seller, however I’m more concerned with my loved ones knowing how much I treasure them. They are my gold medals.

©Mary K. Doyle

(Photo by Lex Alexander. Used with permission.)

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