What is Success?

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Ralph Waldo Emerson

The good life has to be a happy life. I am much in favor of Bertrand Russell’s view on the good life: “The good life, as I conceive it, is a happy life. I do not mean that if you are good you will be happy – I mean that if you are happy you will be good.” The good life also has to be the successful life. But what is a successful life? The definition must vary from person to person. I like the simplicity of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s operational definition: 

What is 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 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.

Here are some bits about Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 -1882) excerpted from the wiki entry.

Waldo Emerson, was an American essayist, lecturer, and poet who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century. He was seen as a champion of individualism . . .

He remains among the linchpins of the American romantic movement, and his work has greatly influenced the thinkers, writers and poets that have followed him. When asked to sum up his work, he said his central doctrine was “the infinitude of the private man.” Emerson is also well known as a mentor and friend of fellow Transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau.

. . . Emerson was introduced to Indian philosophy when reading the works of French philosopher Victor Cousin. In 1845, Emerson’s journals show he was reading the Bhagavad Gita and Henry Thomas Colebrooke’s Essays on the Vedas. Emerson was strongly influenced by Vedanta, and much of his writing has strong shades of nondualism. One of the clearest examples of this can be found in his essay “The Over-soul”:

We live in succession, in division, in parts, in particles. Meantime within man is the soul of the whole; the wise silence; the universal beauty, to which every part and particle is equally related, the eternal ONE. And this deep power in which we exist and whose beatitude is all accessible to us, is not only self-sufficing and perfect in every hour, but the act of seeing and the thing seen, the seer and the spectacle, the subject and the object, are one. We see the world piece by piece, as the sun, the moon, the animal, the tree; but the whole, of which these are shining parts, is the soul.

To me, it is always a source of immense pleasure and comfort to meet a kindred soul across space and time. Some very bright minds, ages ago in India, had insights into the nature of reality. These ideas resonate with other brights minds in distant lands and centuries later. It really is a wonderful world.

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