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What is “real” success?

To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate the beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden […]

To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate the beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch Or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded!”Ralph Waldo Emerson (American essayist, lecturer, philosopher, and poet )

Wow! The above quote by Ralph Emerson struck such a chord with me that I had to dissect deeper and attempt to interpret each of these stipulations of success.

To laugh often and much

For me this equates to someone who does not take herself too seriously. Have you ever met an egomaniac with a sense of humor? And who doesn’t love to be with someone who can laugh at themselves as much as with you and make the world a bit better even if for just a fleeting moment?

To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children

The first part of the phrase “winning the respect of intelligent people” means you know your S*&! – and not salivating for likes and retweets oblivious to the subject at hand, being able to hold your own in an argument and willing to engage in meaningful dialog. The next one is tougher “affection of children”. Children can sense dishonesty and hollowness instantly. You have to be genuine and forthright to get their affection.

Earn the appreciation of honest critics & Endure the betrayal of false friends

The first just happened to me yesterday. I had just finished a blog and was in India visiting my parents and my mom whom I sent it to read – an honest critic – told me that it was good but too long and wasn’t as crisp as my previous ones. #boom #thanks. The betrayal of false friends. This has happened to most of us. People that we called friends are nowhere to be found in times of need. Accept and move on without judgment.

To appreciate the beauty

Let’s not kid ourselves, this is hard. Appreciating real beauty is becoming a rarity. Whether it is having a distraction-free walk taking in the sounds, the smells and looking passersby in the eye to elicit a smile, a conversation even – isn’t that beautiful? For me taking in the beauty of a bougainvillea tree in my walk this morning before whipping out my smartphone to take a snap for posterity was a small step in the right direction.

To find the best in others

Again, increasingly hard to do in this crazy competitive world that has made us inherently suspicious beings. But what if seeing the old man giving up his seat to the pregnant lady in the subway or giving the benefit of doubt to our friend who never showed up to our pre-arranged meeting renews our spirit in humanity. And learning and treating others with equal kindness both when their best intentions are clear and sometimes when they are ambiguous.

To leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition

This sounds like something most of us can and should accomplish right? How hard is it to create a garden patch in our life when there was none, ask any parent and their only dream is to bring a healthy child into the world and for the more ambitious and hardier souls – redeeming a social condition. But the last cannot paralyze us into inaction. Ridding the world of poverty or AIDS may seem too onerous. A first step – a garden patch perhaps or rescuing a dog by giving it a loving home?

To know one life has breathed easier because you have lived

Personally, this is a call to arms. The imploration that is even bordering on mockery – can one life – man, woman or beast – attest that their life was easier because you lived? Are we up to the challenge? I know I took up the challenge much later in life that I should have. But I can answer that question with a straight face now.

Thanks, Mr. Emerson for recalibrating the true meaning of success that has withstood the test of time. And challenging us. I am ready to succeed, are you?

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