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Senior Contributor

Question: what do call success?

Not wanting to start trouble here, but what do you call success?  Kay's post about the "successful crowd" at the funeral has been unsettling to me.  Possibly because I have lived with my mother's definition of success as being wealthy or "well off", important jobs, nice clothes and nice figure & general attractiveness.  Many farmers consider how many acres you farm & own or how big the equipment, or how little debt.


Not being sanctimoneous or anything, but I value more how much a person does for others, how they treat everyone (poor or rich), and how satisfied they are with their life.  If they can carry their weight in life (which Kay's didn't seem to)  and be happy with it, great.   If they dig ditches, and dig the best one of all, and they're happy, great.


Sometimes life throws curve balls.  A classmate of mine was buried last Sat.  She was Valdictorian, with aspirations to be a doctor.  Never made it past the 2nd semester of college although we all THOUGHT she was at the university.  Then she married the love of her life who ran off with her brother in law's sister.  Tragic. She went to work at a factory for 20 or 25 yrs. making it and the other's there her "family".  Then it went belly up.  No pension, etc. to speak of & lost her family.  She barely had enough to bury herself & the family is hoping enough donations will cover the headstone.  She had some nerve/depression problems and made herself a recluse but died from surgery complications.  Oh, how I would like to have heard her infectous laugh once more. 


Just my 2 cents.  Sorry.  This hit on the wrong day at the wrong time. 



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31 Replies
Veteran Contributor

Re: Question: what do call success?

It's a snowy day here so more time to philosophize on this.

Ask 100 people about success and you will likely get 100 different answers along a multi-dimensional spectrum.

As you mentioned, it depends on a person's values in life.  

While some might consider and possessions to be success 

...others might feel that prestige, power and influence are success 

...while others might consider having large numbers of family and/or friends 

...or others the fullfillment of goals and achievements 

...or happiness and contentment with life, being satisfied and grateful for the little things

...or success might mean freedom to be able to do what they want, when, where and how they want 

...for some, success means using the mind and not doing physical labor for a living; while for others it means a job well done after a day of hard physical work completing a task


In any group there will be those who are considered successful and those who are looked upon with dis-favor.   A successful person might be an hourly worker who has a camper and they can go fishing on weekends when they want --  or it could be someone who has family and grandkids around on a regular basis for Sunday dinner or card games on Friday night - or it may be someone who worked hard, and either had luck or postponed pleasure in order to have a big house with grand furnishings, a pool or a fleet of cars.  For each and everyone of these scenarios there is a price to pay.  Take one person out of their group and move them and they may not be considered a success in the next group because of the values of the group.  


To be honest it takes a blend of all of these to keep our country, businesses and communities working.   There are many who work very hard in life (nursing home staff, garbage collectors, farmers and many others) who may never receive the recognition for success, yet they deserve praise for the work they do.  


To me success is the ability to maximize life in a way that aligns with ones dreams, goals and values while still being a positive influence on the people and community around them.    It does not necessarily mean the fulfillment of all dreams and goals because those are a moving target that develop with time and circumstances and they provide the spark that makes life interesting.   Success means being grateful for the day and carrying one's weight in so much as possible so as not to be a burden on society. To have had a positive effect.    




Senior Contributor

Re: Question: what do call success?

You did a much better job articulating this.  I'm a bit emotional right now.  3 funerals in 2 weeks time but only my classmate which seemed such a loss.  Yes it takes all kinds to make this world.  Thankfully we are not all alike.

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Honored Advisor

Re: Question: what do call success?



I used the term "succcessful" I guess too loosely.  This crowd, pretty universally, except for Mike's cousin, has been very successful by standard measures...income, position, family for the most part. 

And I do not mean his cousin was a total failure, just had a totally different way of measuring success, which to be honest, Mike disapproved of...he believes in being responsible, not being a "get rich quick" schemer.  Two very different men, to have been raised so close in age by essentially the same extended family. 


I think the statement this cousin made once never sat well with Mike:"I will NEVER work a blue collar job!"  Well, okay, but don't put down people (like us) who do. 


As for my measure of success, I have to look at something beyond money.  Money is the easy default value to measure success in our culture.  We have done fairly well in that department, and honestly, I hope will continue to do so. 


Our farm produces well, and we have the new cattle enterprise set to start earning this summer.  Success to me in that vein is a pretty crop of calves, a good closeout payment on a house of feeder pigs.  One of the most satisfying feelings is to look out across a hayfield with rows of bales, neatly saved and ready to take to the barn. 


I felt successful last week, when I could just write a check for the equipment we wanted.  I know, that is money again, but it's money we saved.  Earning and saving are two different things, to me. I have a friend whose husband earns very well, but they rarely have two nickels to rub together, which is immature to me. 


We have one kid who will probably never be rich, unless someone leaves him a lot.  He is a starving artist...but one who is starting to take off.  There is only so much work a single person in a small shop can do, but given that he loves what he does, and supports himself with his art, that is success to me. 


I have struggled with the definition of "success" at various points in life.  Then again, I think maybe our definition shifts as we grow and age. Maybe we outgrow one definition, and have to grow another one, like a snake sheds its skin? 


I feel that our marriage has been successful.  That is the top ranking issue for me.  I get irked when people say, "You were really lucky!"  They have no idea how much work and compromise is involved in staying married for over forty years, do they? Not that it hasn't been fun...just not ALL fun.   


While we were in Virginia earlier today, I felt successful, in that I had made a place and taken the time to do some things I set out to do this year...exercise more (learning Tai Chi, finally) and meditate as often as possible.  It felt good when I made it fifteen minutes of sitting and calming my mind down, was surprised when the timer went off to end the meditation practice.  I guess that means that being successful can look a lot like sitting and doing nothing, as long as you do it with purpose.


Doing the "365 day declutter challenge" is really building my sense of success as a homemaker, at long last.  Getting better at cooking, finally, is making me feel better than I can explain to you folks who have always known how to cook well.  I have always felt like a complete failure as Suzy Homemaker, until now.


I don't think I have ever had a problem with treating people well.  If being kind is success, I try as hard as I know how to succeed at that. 


So, you never saidSmiley Very Happyid you consider your late friend to be successful, or not?


Sorry if I set you off on a rant.  My mother is a lot like yours...had to have the biggest house, decorate it for people to see, not for her family to enjoy.  I rebelled against that all my life, too: but couldn't bring myself to live a Possum Life, scavenging, just to spite her. 


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Veteran Contributor

Re: Question: what do call success?

We had a lot of funerals in our area this past year; many too young.  

As we sat at memorial services it made us contemplate on our life purpose, legacy and balance in life of productivity vs. enjoyment.  


We all make choices that lead to different outcomes, hoping to achieve the success we value.  

Life's not always fair tho either.  

In the end it is what it is. 

I just watched this Ted Talk today.  

 What about all those things we think we'll do someday?  If they are important, if not now, then when?  

Plan for the long term, but live for the day.



Senior Contributor

Re: Question: what do call success?


Really did not want to attack you, Kay, but it just sounded kind of snobbish which I'm sure you didn't mean.


No, I didn't consider my friend successful.  Just very sad case of circumstances plus some mental health issues.  But so very smart.  What a waste.  And she cut herself off from her friends.  I might have even seen her & not known her as everyone said she had gained so much weight she was not recognisable.  She also had some asthma problems and the family doesn't know if that was her demise or what.  Her sisters took her for carpal tunnel surgery & her oxygen level was low but came up enough that she was released.  Brought her home, tucked her in bed where she said "gee, this was a snap".  The next morning she was gone.  67 yrs. old


That blue collar thing:  My brother who finally has a home of his own, but flies by the seat of pants, totally enjoying "the moment", living in CA.  Only calling mom once a week.  Obligitory call.  Never calls me to see how things are for her.  Watched us milking & said he could never do that.  Meaning too tied down.  Too dirty.  Had me take a picture of him messing with a cow's udder to show his friends.  Below him, basically.  I get it and how lucky I am to have the life I have. 

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Honored Advisor

Re: Question: what do call success?

Linda, I meant it to say how surprised I an that this crowd mostly turned out as well as it did...I knew them " when".

As for your friend, I think there is a quantum leap between being intelligent" and being " smart". Maybe that applies to her, maybe not.

The dirty, hard work that was " beneath" this cousin is probably part of my observation about the overall situation. If you think you are too good to get your hands dirty, then the whole issue of not being able to afford to bury yourself is that you lived a life characterized by false pride.
He had all the connections a human being could have wanted, college degree, good family. He could have done worse, but a whole lot better, too.
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Senior Contributor

Re: Question: what do call success?

I have been thinking about this for a while and think contentment is one of the key words here. And enough money to do what you need to do. A happy marriage and family if that is what one chooses.  I like the long list way down the page too as there are many ideas and we are each different. Work to do is also important even when retired we need work or hobbies or whatever works for you and enough money to pursue the work and hobby.

Comtentment with your life is valuable.  Of course money does not bring contentment by its self.


Your friend's story is very sad but one we hear often. I think about high school sports stars that go out into the real world after school where some do not make it. The waste of special talents and gifts is sad.

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Senior Contributor

Re: Question: what do call success?

My husband visited with a local friend who retired recently and is close to our age.  Asked him what he does all day and he said "nothing".  Pick the grandkids up from school.  My husband would go nuts without doing some work to do.  He had animals at the age of 6 and he will probably have some at 86.  I'll have to call someone to do chores for the funeral if he goes first.


That is his contentment.  And we have missed the dairy cows but sure are glad today that we're done.  But he is out fighting the weather right now.  Calves to feed, sheep & that darn ram got out awhile back & we have 4 little lambs, one which needs some extra feeding. 


I need to do Kay's 365 day challenge.  This house needs it.

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Honored Advisor

Re: Question: what do call success?

When Winn comes in the house, cold or tired, or just not wide awake yet, and he snuggles beside me, and whispers, " I love you, MaMa!"...I feel like I hit life's lottery.
When Mike sits and savors a bowl of baked apples I served up for dessert, it makes me feel like I have spoiled him enough to make him feel special...because he is.
When a stack of bookwork gets knocked out efficiently, as it did in my office this afternoon, i feel competent, even though I dislike doing this part of farming...because no one else will do it.

I really do miss the feeling of "producing" something. Maybe that is what's missing for my sense of satisfaction.
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