Is Success an Overrated word?

by Benedicta Onyero Droese

At the end of “Would you consider yourself successful”, Sabella Abidde asks, “But really: what is success?”A question that definitely captured my interest; yet, left me scratching my head!Some of the commentary that followed did very little to alleviate my itch. The only purpose that Cynthia Okodede’s response “Successful and proud of it” served was to turn me into a “Curious George” and just like boy George, with a tad more of “need to know right now” itch, I ventured off into cyberspace to poll members of a private online group (mostly Americans) with “How do you define success?”

Also, I spoke to some of my “Oyinbo” friends and neighbors.Although numerous aspects of our customs-African & Western – set us apart like night and day; nonetheless, one must wonder if there are common grounds without boundaries in the way we generally rationalize about human- interest issues.When it comes to how we define success, are there Americans who share similar perspectives with us? Or, are Africans-specifically Nigerians-the only people on this planet equipped with a designer yardstick, which measures success in terms of material possessions, educational background and socio-economic status? If you would allow me to share my findings, in turn, I promise you a conclusion that makes common horse sense even to a preschooler!

“Being successful means more than a high paying job to me,” said Rebca, a 46-year-old wife and mother. “So many people associate”success” with having lots of money.  Nowhere in the Bible does it say, “Go out and get rich and be happy”.

Rebca gave up her career in broadcasting years ago due to a combination of personal reasons and state of affairs that were beyond her control. “If you’re happy and content in whatever situation you find yourself, that’s success.  If not, and you improve your circumstances so that you become happier, that’s success.” Rebca currently works as the Assistant Office Manager for a small town masonry company in Oxford, Mississippi. “I don’t have a dime to my name but I consider myself a success.” She added.

Hmmmmmmmmm…Now let’s analyze some of what this grandmother to be (oh yeah did I mention that too?) is reeeeeeeeeally saying…

·”I don’t have a dime to my name but I consider myself a success.” I sincerely applaud her humility but doubt that you’d ever hear such words spewing out of the mouth of the most modest or religious of any proper Nigerian man or woman.Am I right or am I totally insane in the membrane?Strike one!

·”Being successful means more than a high paying job to me” Strike two! Not to a Nigerian!As far as most of us are concerned, that high paying job that we spent four years of college dreaming about is the alpha and the omega.That high paying job is why that Nigerian Engineer was able to write a 20% down payment check for that four bedroom pool home in the suburbs he’s about to close on.That high paying job is most definitely the reason there’s a brand new BMW parked in his driveway. And if you’re one of his neighbors, better get used to the constant in and out drives. Not even a flat tire could put the brakes on his compulsive need to parade his newly acquired toy to all his colleagues!

Another member, who preferred to be called Ladymars, said “Perhaps, being successful is arriving at the time in your life when you have grown into being the person you want to be.”Head scratch! What person exactly would that be?Was she going somewhere with this blend of new age philosophy and Woodstock? Is there an African flower child out there that could shed some light on this?Could that person that have “grown into being the person you want to be” possibly bear a resemblance to that newly self-proclaimed Nigerian Chief who gets offended when other Nigerians salute him by his first name?

If you’ve ever had to wait in a lengthy queue all day long at the American embassy in Nigeria, I have another good one for you.One member commented, “Success is realizing that the road you took to get there, was the best part of the process…” Yep, I’m sure those words of wisdom were exactly what my nephew needed to hear at a time when he was trying to claw his way out of some concentration camp in Europe with no money for food or a bath soap.

I have had the opportunity to read a few self-help books such as “The success principles” by Jack Canfield, “Over the top” by Zig Ziglar, ” How to win friends and influence others” by Dale Carnegie” and “A kick in the seat of the pants” by Roger von Oech.”But quite frankly, I’ve never really given the word “success” a second thought because to me, success is simply overrated!Now, if there’s a point to running a race that measures a person’s successes by the achievements of others…I’ll rethink my stance!

We can blame our culture or society for distorting our views of success.We can point our fingers at our peers or families for the relentless pressure. However, we must never loose sight of the fact that “we all, as individuals, have our own unique set of talents. Recognizing them and cultivating them instead of focusing on what others are doing with their set of talents, is to me, the true measure of success,” said a 45-year old Graphic Artist who works from his home based office.And I couldn’t agree with him more.

An aspiring freelance writer may define success as seeing his article in print for the first time, rather than the monetary compensation.   To an uninspired painter, it may mean the final brush strokes to that elusive masterpiece he’d been struggling with.  A morbidly obese woman, who hadn’t seen beyond her belly button in years, might tell you that it’s the ability to finally tie her own shoes. I would like to use this opportunity to challenge you-our youth of tomorrow to always set goals- any goal, regardless of how trivial it may seem to others. And remember this… the moment you ACHIEVE that goal, hold your head up high; pat yourself on the back if you prefer because that my friend is the true meaning of SUCCESS! If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I think success ought to be in the eye of the achiever!

P.S. Doctor Seuss once said, “Be who you are, say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter; and those who matter don’t mind.” It’s YOUR LIFE!

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attorneylady November 27, 2006 - 2:54 pm

Very good article…served as a boost of inspiration, i didn't know i needed until i finished reading your piece!!! Keep up the good work….

PA November 26, 2006 - 2:43 pm

I would have to say that i totally agree with you. I believe success is progressviely achieving your goals, short term or long term. Great write up!

BA November 14, 2006 - 5:15 pm

Nice article

Kayro November 13, 2006 - 9:20 pm

Very good article, I enjoyed it.

Rosie November 13, 2006 - 2:34 pm


10 November 13, 2006 - 11:53 am

Now, that was an interesting article. The writer, whom I consider a friend, is a remarkably talented author.


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