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What Is Success?

“And the people in the houses all went to the university, And they all get put in boxes, little boxes all the same, And there’s doctors and there’s lawyers, And business executives , And they all get put in boxes, and they all come out the same”  Pete Seeger 

What exactly is this ambiguous concept called success? 

Money bags photoThere are many ways to measure success. In fact, in pursuing certain aspects of success one foregoes other elements. In the end, success is very personal and subjective.

Without a doubt, if one takes the Christian perspective of a heaven and hell, then the most important thing is to make it to heaven. After all ‘what profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his very soul?’ So, from the spiritual point of view, we should ‘work out our salvation with fear and trembling’.

Next, on the agenda, I would put down is being a good person. If you do number one you I am certain that you have already taken care of this. However, for believers and even nonbelievers, it will be good to explore this aspect. There is in all humanity a sense of good and evil. I believe that this is an innate aspect of us that we all share. That it is wrong to lie and hurt others. That there is a good and an evil. When we cross the line from good into evil there are personal consequences to pay. We don’t feel good about ourselves as the guilt pricks our soul. As a result, some will turn to drugs and alcohol.

There is something to be said for worldly success. I think the majority of people long to achieve in a worldly fashion.  That is we want to do our best, and we want to come out on top. Whether it is being a professional athlete, successful in a trade or occupation or making a lot of money. Unfortunately in attaining worldly success will sometimes interfere with achieving the first two goals. Even if somebody doesn’t turn to ruthless, unethical methods, there is still the sacrifice of time which could go into spiritual and personal development. For example, the long hours put into making a career while in the process sacrificing good family time.

There are of course people who fail in every aspect. Miserable impoverished people who never go anywhere in life. A lot of times the environment dictates our success. If somebody is born in the poverty of a famished African country the odds against them being successful in certain aspects is very hard. This is I think is obvious but I want to look at the extreme opposite.

There are people in society that will sacrifice all for self, and that means everything and anything. These people are sociopaths that lust for power, control and mammon. You can see this in the rough and tumble world of politics. Politicians will get up before a crowd and lie. Not only will they lie but they will do so in a persuasive and convincing manner. That is the thing about politicians they do whatever it takes to get into power and once elected they will do whatever it takes to keep power.

There are of course the business people, the bankers, the weapons makers and their ilk. These people sacrifice entire nations on the altar of profits. Without a thought for future generations, these greedy people destroy nature. Planet Earth is going down and it has been so over the generations. With the rising numbers of population and the destruction of our resources, we are fast approaching a point where we will no longer be able to maintain all of human life. Of course, the selfish use of resources, like on war, hinder the future of our collective survival.

So therein lies the difference. Let’s look at people who are on the very top of the United States financially. Some would say that they are very successful but that is only by one criterion.  In the end, we all make choices in life. It is the rare person who has it all. But it is equally as rare to have nothing.

There is a lot to be said about contentment to enjoy the things that you already have and not having an envious eye. After all, the greener grass on the other side of the fence may be genetically modified and really be poisonous.

Here is a book that takes a look at life through a very entertaining and bizarre story. “I Should Have Been A Rock Star”.

What Is Success?

John Kaniecki

John Kaniecki is a full-time caregiver for his wife Sylvia. He is a published writer and works with the Church of Christ. John has lived with bipolar for over thirty years and has been hospitalized nine times, three of which were committed. John has chronicled his life story in his memoirs "More Than The Madness". Also of note is John's book of poetry "Murmurings Of A Mad Man" which are poems written about being committed in Graystone Psychiatric Hospital. John believes in the power of words to change the world for the better. His website can be seen here. His books can be seen on Amazon. You can visit his personal blog "Turn A Page Or Two" here.

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APA Reference
Kaniecki, J. (2018). What Is Success?. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 21, 2019, from


Last updated: 11 May 2018
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 11 May 2018
Published on All rights reserved.