I watched a fascinating documentary on TV one night about a Mexican songwriter and singer named Rodriguez who I had not heard of before. It was not your usual story of success, but about a man who came from very humble beginnings and poverty, to become a household name especially in South Africa.
He has sold many records and sang to thousands of sell-out concerts, and had no idea he was so popular. He came to Australia in 1979 and sang to 15,000 people. He’s lived in the same modest house in Detroit all his life. He has no car, computer, or TV. He told his daughter Regan he has three basic needs: food, clothing and shelter.
And yet he has made lots of money from his singing, most of which he gives away to his three daughters and friends. Regan said, “That’s his philosophy. He takes great pleasure in giving it away, especially to people that supported him when he wasn’t a big commercial success. I do really wish he’d spend some of the money on himself, though.”
I was very interested in this story because it was unusual. It wasn’t your normal type of success story. This man is not interested in money or becoming famous. He has a very different attitude towards success. Most of us think success means a big bank account, being recognised, and appearing in the media. But not Rodriguez—it means nothing to him. I thought it was quite refreshing.
What is Success?
How do you know if you are successful? Is it measured in terms of prosperity and lots of money and a big house with six bedrooms and a swimming pool? What is success? Someone has said, It is being able to go to bed each night with your soul at peace—and I like that. It’s obvious some successful people are far from happy and have many worries and concerns. Untold millions of people in our modern society are striving for ‘success’. They read books, listen to tapes, attend seminars and do all manner of things in order to be successful.
When it came to making money, J. Paul Getty was the most ‘successful’ man of his generation. He was worth billions of dollars at a time when a dollar was worth at least two or three times what it is today. Yet he had a failed marriage, was often lonely and frustrated, and has been widely reported to have said: “I would give up all the money I have ever made if I could just have one happy marriage!”
Most of us have a definition of success that we strive for. It might be a title at work, a level of income, or a particular social status. Google the word ‘success’ and you get about 330 million hits. Do an Amazon search and you will find over 820,000 books on the subject. With all this information we certainly should know what success is right?
What Real Success Is
One person defines success as the completion of anything intended. That’s no help at all—I drop a pencil and I’m a success. People think that success is due to some lucky break or just being a sheer genius. Most of us picture success as being more like someone we are not—and that is frustrating and soul destroying.
But true success is not a list of accomplishments. There’s something deeper to true success. Something more substantial. Something harder to achieve, harder to measure, but long-lasting and deeply meaningful. I’m talking about intangible but ultimately significant qualities. Things like honesty, loyalty, integrity, compassion, and character. Would you agree?
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote:
To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the approbation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty; To find the best in others; To give of one’s self; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.
(Read Rodriguez and Success – Part 2)