Would You Consider Yourself Successful?

by Sabella Ogbobode Abidde

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful” (Herman Cain).

I was with a group of friends this weekend when, in an exasperating tone, one of them complained to no one in particular: “I sometimes wonder whether those of us who are in the academic world are not wasting our time doing what we do best. We toil and toil and toil all in the name of advancing knowledge…all for what…$50-75k a year? That’s not fair; it is not fair at all!My cousin, with just a polytechnic education, bought a house in one of the posh areas of Lagos, for 88 million naira. But here I am, toiling all day and all night and don’t even have one thousand dollars in my account…”

Suddenly, there was a deafening and uncomfortable silence, lasting no less than ten seconds. Almost in unison, the silence was punctuated by roaring-deep-belly-laughs: the kind of laughter that tugs at your ribcage and makes you want to pee, or that make ones eyes misty. We laughed and laughed and laughed; and then chuckled. Some then extended their hands to grab their bottle of beer or glass of Jack Daniels. Others returned to their bowl of goat-meat pepper soup or sticks of home-made suya. Life! Academic life or no academic life, there was a feeling in the room that none of us could come up with that amount of money — be it in Naira, Cedi or CFA Franc — anytime soon.

When we all seemed composed, another friend asked: “Does that mean none of us in this room is successful…Does it mean we have just wasted our lives helping to develop God’s own country…Does anyone regret coming to Yankee…Given the chance, what would anyone in this room do different…?” Another friend objected to this line of questioning and asked, “What is Success…what would you or anyone in this room consider ‘successful’…how would you define it?” It was at this junction that the atmosphere got rowdy, with a dozen or so voices trying to make sense of a relative term (without engaging in “conceptual stretching”). And so it was for half-an hour — men and women, all debating this simple question: “Do You Consider Yourself Successful?”

The least vocal in the group then called all of us to order. She wondered: “May be we are asking the wrong question. Why don’t we think of success in terms of inner happiness, contentment, and satisfaction; why don’t we look at the big-picture…our quality of life, instead of measuring our lives in terms of money and material possession. At this point in my life, I am absolutely happy with myself and my family. That, however, is not to say we have stopped dreaming and or that we no longer have other aspirations.”

Our host raised his hand signifying he needed our attention. First, he reminded us there are more drinks and food to be eaten; secondly, he reminded us of our planned trip to Buenos Aires; and finally, he said: “quality of life matters…but hey, I won’t mind 88 million naira in my bank account…does anyone have Obasanjo or Atiku’s phone number…I want my share of the petrodollars…” The room went nuts with prolonged laughter…eating and drinking…and dancing…and laughing. But really: what is success?

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ezenwanyii November 16, 2006 - 12:49 am

The defining of success is subjective. My definition of success is having peace and closeness with God, raising self sufficient law abing children, keeping your marraige together and having the ability to give back to society, whether it be monetary or otherwise. There are many people chasing the dollar and losing their kids and family to the streets. To me, if you have a million dollars in the bank and your children are dilinquents, then you have failed.

Multioption October 18, 2006 - 1:52 pm

Success is relative to individuals.

Success, to me, is defined as whatever feat or act that gives individuals a sense of accomplishment.

The life of man, however, does not consist in the abundance of things he possesses.

ddagogojosiah October 10, 2006 - 8:51 pm

SO.Abidde scored with this piece,I mean the bull's eye.There's more to life than meterial stuff.

SMJ October 10, 2006 - 3:57 pm

Success simply means that you are comfortable with what you have. Big houses, flashy cars and lots of degrees does not equate success. My mother once told me when I went to Nigeria for a visit…she said, "having a house or cars has nothing to do with success, when you are successful, you will get everything that you want in a simple way. You can not eat your house or car, you can only ride or live in them, to be successful means you can simply do things without any problem. She continue, how many people can do things without any obstacle? So, my son, she said, whatever condition that you are in right now, consider yourself to successful because all others are looking at you secretly from a long distance and all they want is to be like you. Whatever you call yourself is what people will call you. My son, you are a successful person with every air that you inhale everyday. Be happy.It is better to be comfortable and solve your own problem rather than being rich and solve other people problem and be blamed all the time. Stay low profile, you are a successful person.


Clett October 10, 2006 - 12:18 pm

Success is not an individual accomplishment but a group one with individual participation to advance the group. America is a success, Nigeria is a failure. Although, I have two postgraduate degrees (Science and business) from USA colleges, that does not make me better than someone with a Polytechnic degree. No matter our level of education, we can all contribute to the success of a group. Our employement places here in America are success groups because of the contributions of the cleaners to the CEOs. Phd, or no Phd, one may belong to a success group or not.


Bennie Onyero-Droese October 10, 2006 - 10:25 am

We can blame it on our society. We can blame it on the government. We can even blame it on our Family or Peer Pressure. The fact is, anyone who claims to be educated, yet follows the beaten path ideology that equates success with financial independence, material possessions or socio-economic status, is in my humble opinion, simple minded and uninformed. An aspiring Freelance writer may define success as seeing his or her article in print for the first time rather than the monetary compensation. Success to a morbidly obese woman could mean the ability to finally tie her own shoes after many years of not being able to see beyond her belly button. SET A GOAL, any goal. Just remember thisthe moment you ACHIEVE that goal, hold your head up high; pat yourself on the back if you like because that my friend is the meaning of SUCCESS! If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, shouldnt success be in the eye of the achiever?

Anonymous October 10, 2006 - 6:18 am

I dont think you should rate susccess by the possessions a man has..remember the scripture "what does it profit a man to gain the world and lose his soul?" it really does ring true…what about those people that had all the money in the world like Howard Hughes but died a recluse? Money is good but it really doesnt bring happiness. Success is knowing you have touched a lot of people's lives for good…if it makes you rich in the process, the better for you!


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