To Whom It May Concern,

I’m supposed to give advice on how to achieve success. It’s a ridiculous idea since “success” is a purely subjective definition. It can be determined by prosperity, legacy, position, power, ranking, family, friends, fortune, health, happiness, you name it. My “success” is different than yours and to measure my “success” by your definition or vice versa is inane.

There’s a man I know who got a job and one month he made almost $100, and that was a success. I’m sure none of you would think of that as a big success. The context, however, is the man is completely blind, lost his sight and sensitivity in his fingertips in three days so he can’t see or read braille. Despite all that, he earned a diploma in journalism and got a freelance job. True, that job nets him less than 100 bucks a month, but that’s a success for him.

Your success, regardless of what it may be, will be no greater or lesser than his. Be humble in your lives.

Along with being a subjective definition, it’s also an evolving one. What grand plans you have now may be silly ideas in the future. Today you focus on fame. In ten years, you may be proud to say you made it to every play your daughter was in, despite overtime and office politics. So don’t view one “success” as petty, don’t decide you are better than another. You aren’t and you never will be.

If there is a way to gain an edge to accomplish “success” whatever that means to you, I’d say be informed and involved. There are plenty of ignorant people out there, the world doesn’t need more. Learn constantly. Know what is happening and why. Don’t use one source, get several. Get different points of view.

People think knowing the future is a marvellous fictional power, but the more you know, the further you can see ahead. Bad politicians are like great crooks; they love the apathetic who don’t know any better. So know better. Watch what deals are made, what budgets are passed, where they’re building, how they are spending your money. Don’t stick your heads in the sand and decide “they’re all crooks so what’s the point?” Be involved. You don’t have to go to neighbourhood barbecues, but you should at least know who your neighbours are. Who your co-workers are. What policies are passing in the workplace, in the city, in the country.

Above all else, if you want to forget or ignore all of that, be kind in life. The one thing you should always remember is that no one owes you an ounce of kindness. There is no “right” for that. All the people here, they don’t owe you. There’s no invisible tally sheet floating around for everyone. It’s easy to fall for that, to convince ourselves that there are kindness debts out there.
We’ve helped Vince move how many times now and he can’t find a way to come here and help move a couch? I’ve been with you through the hard times and suddenly you don’t care?

They don’t have to. You shouldn’t expect them to.

No one owes you the kindness of looking at a resume and giving you advice. No one owes you the kindness of holding open a door, or saying please, or carrying something heavy. The person serving you coffee doesn’t owe you the kindness of asking how your day was or saying you look nice. No one owes you congrats for a job well-done. Don’t expect it and be angry when it’s not there. Be grateful when it is, and be generous with your kindness.

Because if there is any constant when it comes to success, it is not that professional or personal rankings are always mentioned at one’s death. But there is always a comment on how kind someone was because they didn’t have to be.

So live your lives however you wish to achieve whatever success you want, and I wish you all the best in accomplishing just that.


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