3 Nov 2015

A new meaning for success

In his fascinating book “Outliers” Malcolm Gladwell tells us why some people don’t succeed in life despite their ambition and drive, despite the ample endowments they possess be it intelligence, talent or skill. In an eloquent metaphor Gladwell explains:

“The tallest oak in the forest is not only the tallest because it grew from the hardiest acorn, it is also the tallest because no other trees blocked its sunlight, because the soil around it was deep and rich, because no rabbit chewed at its bark as a sapling and because no lumberjack cut it down before it matured”

Many people have what it takes; the charisma, the talent, the charm, the knowledge and the motivation but are never given a proper chance, some are filled with self-doubt due to a childhood full of emotional, mental and physical abuse, some are drawn back by a selfish, jealous partner or employer, some are not acknowledged because they could not afford the right school or indeed were put in the right school but were ignored by a spiteful or an indifferent teacher.

Many of the greatest artists, philosophers, authors and poets we recognize today were never appreciated during their lifetime, they lead a life of poverty and despair with only their passion and their love for what they do keeping them alive, and in many cases their passion failing to even keep them alive, pushing them towards suicide and self-harm.

But is success really the recognition of others? Is the only measure of success fame and fortune? Can we not as human beings become successful unless people notice us, show us appreciation and remember our names?

Inspired by poet Rainer Maria Rilke, Franz Kappus a young aspiring poet wrote to him for advice and to ask his opinion on some of his poetry, Rilke’s response was as follows:

“You ask whether your verses are any good, you ask me, you asked others before this, you send them to magazines, you compare them with other poems, and you are upset when certain editors reject your work. Now, since you have said you want my advice, I beg you to stop doing that sort of thing. You are looking outside and that is what you should most avoid”

Success is simply the ability to do something well, if I can make a nice omelet then I am successful, if I am a good listener then I am successful. Recognition may or may not come, appreciation may or may not be shown. Don’t despair if your talent and hard work goes unnoticed, for most of the world is blind.