Picture by KM Cheng, Hong Kong

How do you define success?  Are you interested in achieving success in your life?

Tuesday morning, I had an 8:00 AM appointment at the health center to get a physical.  Since I’m over 40, I need a “Class III” (full) physical each year if I plan to attend summer camp with our Boy Scout troop.  At my age, a full physical means I need to have my prostate checked (no colonoscopy yet; that indignity is still a few years off).  So there I was sitting in an empty examination room, waiting for the Nurse Practitioner to enter and begin my physical and trying to distract my mind from what was about to happen in the next few minutes.

That’s when my eyes fell on a copy of the 21 Suggestions for Success by H. Jackson Brown taped to the cabinet above the sink.  A little research revealed that this list has been spread all over the Internet, but it was a new discovery for me on that Tuesday morning.  Here’s the list in full:

21 Suggestions for Success

By H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

  1. Marry the right person. This one decision will determine 90% of your happiness or misery.
  2. Work at something you enjoy and that’s worthy of your time and talent.
  3. Give people more than they expect and do it cheerfully.
  4. Become the most positive and enthusiastic person you know.
  5. Be forgiving of yourself and others.
  6. Be generous.
  7. Have a grateful heart.
  8. Persistence, persistence, persistence.
  9. Discipline yourself to save money on even the most modest salary.
  10. Treat everyone you meet like you want to be treated.
  11. Commit yourself to constant improvement.
  12. Commit yourself to quality.
  13. Understand that happiness is not based on possessions, power or prestige, but on relationships with people you love and respect.
  14. Be loyal.
  15. Be honest.
  16. Be a self-starter.
  17. Be decisive even if it means you’ll sometimes be wrong.
  18. Stop blaming others. Take responsibility for every area of your life.
  19. Be bold and courageous. When you look back on your life, you’ll regret the things you didn’t do more than the ones you did.
  20. Take good care of those you love.
  21. Don’t do anything that wouldn’t make your Mom proud.

Since I was in that examination room to receive a physical for the scouts, my first thought (with a certain amount of pride) was, “The Boy Scout Oath and Law cover most of these.”  My next thought came almost immediately after, “I need to share this list with my children.”  My daughter is 19 and my older son 18; both are legally adults and long for the privileges adults enjoy, but they’re both still dependent on Carol and I for their support and education.  They both have so much talent and potential, but there are so many ways to loose your way in this world.  This list would make a great road map for them through out their lives.

Still, I have a feeling they won’t be the least bit interested in this list.  They haven’t read any of the other pearls of wisdom that I’ve brought them lately.  Ultimately, I have to learn to accept that; they have to live their lives in the way that fits them best.  They need their chance to test their wings, just as we did in our youth.

So that left me to ponder the list as it applies to me.  I’ve been slowly learning that I can’t live my life by adhering to a list of rules, no matter how good they are.  That list is static, anchored in the past.  It will drag you out of living in the present, making you a prisoner to the decisions of your former self.  As I’m learning to trust myself and starting to believe that I am a good willed person, I’m developing the faith I need to live without rigid rules and principles, accepting life as it comes at me and my reactions to it in return.

 Still, remembering that there are no rewards or punishments, only consequences, it occurs to me that the list above isn’t really a list of rules to follow to achieve success, it’s actually a picture of success itself.  Ultimately, it’s not the destination that’s the goal in this life, it’s the journey itself.  The most satisfying aspect of success isn’t the part when you’ve “arrived” and everyone recognizes it, it’s actually when you’re still striving toward the goal, when you can see it but others can’t, when your intention and purpose give you the courage to dare to stretch yourself beyond your safe borders. 

The 21 Suggestions for Success looks an awful lot like success to me.


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