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What is Success?


Not so long ago a friend asked me if I thought I was a success. I didn’t know what to say and when I did manage an answer it was “No.” I was thinking in terms of not just professional success but financial success. Where I want to be not how far I’ve come. I didn’t think about success as a person, about emotional or creative success, about success in my marriage or in my relationships with people. My initial reaction was to think of success in narrow terms. And because of the way I replied I became aware of how limited my idea of success often is.P

I thought about this when I read “The Third Man,” Lauren Collin’s profile of Novak Djokovic in the New Yorker. Djokovic told Collins this story:P

It’s important to be humble, and important to be very open-minded toward all the people in the world. It doesn’t matter who it is, really, or how much amount of success that person has made, because you don’t measure the person through the success the person has made, but through his behavior. There is one actually great quote from Pavle, our Orthodox priest—we are not Catholic, so we don’t have apapa. He’s our spiritual leader, in a way. He passed away in 2009, and he’s actually one of the greatest people that, really, Serbia ever had. Because he was a very modest man—his sister was very ill, so he would go every day with the public transport to visit her. He never used cars; he always talked to the people. So, one great quote—he says to one kid that was saying to him that he has the best grades and so much success in the school. So Patriarch Pavle said, “That’s all great, I congratulate you, but it’s not the grades that make you a man, but your behavior.” So that’s what I try to implement in my life.P

Behavior, how you treat people, showing up when things are difficult, over achievement. That’s cool, man and rings true to me.

Here’s an example of success:

[Photo Via: Clutter and Chaos]


1 RIYank   ~  Aug 28, 2013 2:22 pm


I suppose it's all relative to your expectations, or something. But do you know what percentage of Bronx Banter readers would have told your friend that you are a success?

Because I do.

2 Alex Belth   ~  Aug 28, 2013 2:28 pm

1) Dude, you've made my day. But that really gets to down to the bottom of it--the way I perceive myself. I think I bought into the notion from a young age that success was money and status, maybe fame too. I'm not so concerned about the fame part and god knows the choices I've made have not been with money in mind first but still I can get hung up on that stuff. Which obscures the stuff I am a success at, the stuff I've worked damn hard at.

So go figure, you know.

3 DasPretzel   ~  Aug 28, 2013 3:50 pm

I know Alex and The Wife are among the best people I can call friends. That says loads more about my success than anything I own.

4 Bluenatic   ~  Aug 28, 2013 4:10 pm

It's difficult sometimes, especially living and working in New York City, to maintain that perspective. So many of the people we interact with on a daily basis are caught up in status and material gain. But Djokovic is right. Success is relative, and ultimately a measure of character. The rub is that one can't pay the rent with character. Poets can't eat strophes for breakfast, though some have tried courageously.

5 Hank Waddles   ~  Aug 29, 2013 1:15 am

The very fact that you chose the title of Emerson's poem as the title of this piece tells me that your values are where they should be. (But of course, I've known that for several years now.)

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