“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” – Albert Einstein
The greatest man ever to be born, couldn’t have been more apt in laying the concept of a common ground for comparison. One might write it off as a simple phrase, so effortlessly put down by a man who himself enjoyed abundant success throughout his life; but the fact is, in my opinion, that it is the simplest tenet one must live by, when looking wide-eyed at this world full of successes and failures.
So what is this about? Is this about Great men? Or failures? Or is this about one’s perception of greatness? Its about none of this. It is much more basic than that. This is about the little word we refer to as ‘Success‘. So, let’s start by hitting the nail on the forehead- What is Success? How does one define Success?
In our daily lives, we come across a number of people who are the epitome of what we refer to as success. Rich businessmen, top artists, highly ranked bankers, wealthy philanthropists, etc., so cemented in our minds as the face of success that we often miss the point as to why we call them successful and idolize them like gods. And that, brings us to another, even more basic question- What are the parameters that define success? What criterion does one need to satisfy in order to be termed successful? Is it money, is it fame, is it the need that other people hold for you, or is it something entirely different than all of this? The answer to this, is very subjective, and probably is the answer to all the questions we asked ourselves till this point.
Consider the lives of two men, one a wealthy middle-aged industrialist, who happens to be the owner of a multi-million estate. And the other, a middle-aged banker, who lives a normal, but average life. At this juncture if one is asked to judge, who amongst the two has been more successful with his life, I bet most of us would pass the judgment in the favor of the industrialist. And that includes me. But a few wise men would wait to pass on the judgment and hold for more information. Fine. In addition to being wealthy, the industrialist is a social philanthropist and makes generous donations to all the good causes. The banker, poor as he is, is devoid of any ambition to grow further up in his life and is completely content with what he has. Now, most of them who held judgments would claim the industrialist to be the more successful man. Here, we have subconsciously considered wealth, goodwill and ambition as the criteria that defines success. This is exactly where I like to differ. Let us delve deeper into the life of the banker. He, an orphaned child, had not a place to live, no food to eat, nobody to take care of him. From a state where he was fighting for survival, his daily bread and shelter, he progressed to become an educated man and landed himself a job. He now has a family of his own, say a daughter, and has nothing but a successful career for his daughter and her marriage on his mind. Would you still call him ambition-less? He is not working hard for more in his life, he doesn’t need more, he is happy with what he has. Would that be termed as a lack of hunger to succeed? No, Sir. The industrialist could have been a heir for most of the estate that his father built from zilch! For its easier to build an empire when you already have Rome at your disposal. So, here comes the answer. Success is always to be measured from the starting point. The lower one starts, the lesser probability he has to reach higher than the one who starts higher. The final altitude should never be the basis of judgment of one’s success. For no two starting points are the same, and hence no two individuals can be compared for their worldly accomplishments.
The whole crux of the story, is that you can never understand or judge what a person has achieved in his life, unless you know where he started from. I happen to know many a people who started low, and have achieved greatness in my eyes for whatever good they did to their lives, and to the lives of those who depended on them (and also to those who didn’t). Success, ultimately remains a subjective judgment, which you can arrive at only when you know the person, his history and the sacrifices that person made to achieve his current level. In a just world, the banker would be considered a more successful man than the industrialist, but in the world we live in, the real heroic of the banker would only be visible to his daughter and the wife.