What is success?
“ To laugh often and love much; to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children; to earn the approbation of honest citizens and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to give of one’s self; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived — this is to have succeeded” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
I have worked in the corporate sector all my life. I had the pleasure of working with incredibly smart people. However, many of them raised a very simple yet profound question: what, according to you is success?
As i transitioned to a new role, I always left my old colleagues with the above poem on Success by Ralph Waldo Emerson. The words truly capture the first step in thinking correctly about success. So, the question is: if success is so simple that it can be captured in a poem, why does the answer elude everyone?
Well, that’s because the words above are the beginning of the journey. The end, however, is very hard to achieve. True success lies in attaining complete enlightenment or “Nirvana”
Can you have more money than god? I believe not. Do you have a magic basket (oops, casket) to carry your material possessions in when you transcend earth and enter an unknown dimension? I don’t think so. So, if there is no way to hold on to your wealth and material pleasures for eternity, why do we spend our life and more importantly our health accumulating something that at the end of the horizon will have no value.
There is an answer. Let me deviate a bit and tell you a small story. This story revolves around a very well known god by the name Siddhartha Gautama. Siddhartha was a rich prince in India who possessed every conceivable material possession. I believe very few of us can dream of being a prince let alone be one. Anyway, at age 29, Siddhartha embarked on a journey of self discovery. He came across a very sick man. His charioteer explained that all people eventually get old and die. So, Siddhartha decided to lead the life of an ascetic to overcome death, disease and sickness.
Very soon, he discovered that the life of an ascetic is incredibly hard. He almost starved himself to death. I see all my readers nodding in unison. Clearly, you cannot go to the other extreme from being wealthy to being an ascetic. There is a middle way — a noble eight fold path that focuses on restraint. Its a deeply philosophical premise that I do not wish to expound on. If you find the story interesting, I would encourage you to learn more at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gautama_Buddha
A path of restraint and moderation can lead to the ultimate enlightenment i.e. Nirvana. Nirvana is the extinguishing of the “fires” of desire, hatred, and ignorance, that keep the cycle of suffering and rebirth going. Nirvana is also regarded as the “end of the world”, in that no personal identity or boundaries of the mind remain.
I can completely understand that the concept of Nirvana is not very intuitive for many who believe in heaven,hell and judgement. I am not a proselytizer. I don’t want you to change who you are. I want you to open your mind to an alternate possibility. I am a man of science seeking answers. Therefore, I don’t accept concepts easily and I don’t encourage you to either. However, learning more is definitely to your advantage.
I always tell my mother — “ you cannot teach philosophy to a beggar”. His immediate needs are food, clothing and shelter. Unless he satisfies these desires, he sees no utility in philosophy. Once his needs are satisfied, he will be more receptive. However, if you have read Abraham Maslow’s need hierarchy theory — the trouble with human nature is everyone wants more. That is where restraint comes in. Again, restraint is a concept not palatable to the youth. Ambition should guide life choices when you are on a journey of wealth creation. However, when your ambitious life choices trample on your commitment to loved ones or your health, exercise caution and go slow for a while.
Go ahead- follow your passion and fulfill your material desires. However, I wish you find a turn in your road at the right time. True success lies in embarking on a journey that begins with living for others and ends in Nirvana.
My goal is not to preach. It is to leave you with a story that can lead you to true success. Godspeed!!
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