What Is Genuine Success?
“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of the 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 beauty in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that one life has breathed easier because you lived here. This is to have succeeded.”
This is my absolute favorite poem and quotation from transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson. It captures so much of what makes life truly meaningful, and supports us in the everyday journey to make ourselves and the world around us a better place. At the end of the day, we all crave success. Whatever it may mean to you, whether it’s being financially stable, opening your own business, retiring someone you love, being able to travel across the world, or even if you just want to have the best house with the greatest interior design, everyone has their own perception of what makes them look, and feel, successful. I’m not here to steer you in a different direction, nor am I arguing that your definition is better or worse than mine. I simply want to share and break down the poem a little bit to what it encompasses, in the hopes that Emerson’s words may also resonate to anyone who could use clarity on what genuine success really means.
- To laugh often and much: Discover what makes you laugh wholeheartedly and visit there often. Laughter is a universally treasured component of life.
- To win the respect of the intelligent people and the affection of children: Recognize that respect from intelligent people must be earned. Don’t dwindle over not having respect from unreasonable people. Children are naïve of the bigger world around them, yet are wonderful at seeing who is genuine, and who isn’t. Their affection is priceless.
- To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends: Honest critics are there FOR YOU, not against you. Do honest, good work and you will appreciate their value and insight on your quest. Not all friends are actually the friends you may initially perceive them to be. Some will betray you. Endure the loss, move on, and continue forward.
- To appreciate beauty: Our world is an incredible setting. Go out, enjoy it, and don’t destroy it. Take a walk sometime, somewhere new, and see what how wondrous the simple things in life are.
- To find the beauty in others: Help others bring out the best in them. Be a good person to them, and vice versa they will bring light to your finest qualities as well.
- To leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition: Pretty self-explanatory; leave the world a better place than you found it. Acknowledge that the little things in life have enormous contributions.
- To know that one life has breathed easier because you lived here: You have helped someone in some way, shape, or form. You have made their life a little brighter, and for that, you have their eternal gratitude and remembrance.
A timeless poem from someone who loved the natural world and wanted to leave his mark on it, and so he did. While we all have our own different belief systems on religion, spirituality, and philosophies, one thing remains true to us all: we want to prosper. We want to leave this world feeling like we accomplished what we wanted to do, and got the chance to do so. Sometimes you just have to appreciate the little things in life to make room for the big picture.