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Winning Essay

Tawni Lowe
Kansas State University
Manhattan, KS
(Instructor: Professor Susan McKim)


Murky Water: Defining the Indefinable

As I skim through the city's daily newspaper, I am reminded of the amazing people in our world. A surgeon operates on a ten-month old baby after a tragic car accident nearly takes the boy's life. The baby survives and goes on to live a normal, healthy life. A man graduates from Harvard Law School and goes on to make top dollar as a lawyer in Chicago. A woman with a degree in architecture and design is chosen to plan the newest additions to buildings in downtown Kansas City. Generally, everyone would agree that these three people are successful. So what exactly is success? Is it money? Is it power? It is often heard that all people want is to be successful, so if everybody is striving for it, why is it so hard to define? The explanation starts with the word itself, success. The problem with defining success is the word is a construct. What is successful to me may or may not be successful to you. Therefore, it is almost as if the definition is an opinion. The true definition is unclear. Webster's Dictionary says success is defined as a noun meaning "Achievement of something intended or desired; attaining wealth, or fame."

On that note I step back from my newspaper. I lay my dictionary down and I ponder for a moment on what I have just learned. I realize that society automatically titles anyone who has power or authority, or even is just wealthy as being successful. I believe you can be the king of the universe and still be unsuccessful. On the other hand, I think a single mother, barely scraping by, working two jobs to raise her four young children is not only admirable, but she is also successful.

Success doesn't even necessarily need to be an achievement of something desired, like Webster's Dictionary said. To me, success is attempting and working hard to reach a goal that you have set for yourself. Being successful means learning from the experience; it means being able to walk away from the situation knowing your are a better person because of it. A person whose life-long goal has been to become a doctor may begin his education in medicine. After a semester or two he has failed a few courses, and eventually he realizes that this major is not suitable for him and he switches to an "easier" field. In my eyes, this student is not a failure. In fact, much the opposite is true. He is a success. He went for his goal, worked hard, and although he failed, he learned something very valuable. He learned things about himself that he may never had known without traveling that road. He learned what was best for him and what would make him happy, which brings me to my next point.

Success is being happy. Success is being proud of yourself at the end of the day. Success is knowing that you put your best effort forth and regardless of whether or not you accomplished your goal, you tried. You are happy with the choices you made and you will learn from any mistakes.

But, success is work. Nobody just wakes up a brain surgeon. It takes time, it takes effort, it takes persistence, and it takes patience. Success is all about striving for your goals; striving for what makes you happy. Nobody is perfect, but the difference between a successful person and an unsuccessful person is all in the effort they put into their goal. Quitters never win and winners never quit. Make yourself a checklist: Are you happy? Are you working as hard as you can? Are you determined not to give up? If you can answer "yes" to those simple questions, congratulations, you have defined success.


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