How to Measure Success
by The Milton Measure on Friday, October 14th, 2011
In the wake of Steve Job’s death, senior Affective Education classes discussed how to measure success. While many were apprehensive to begin with, the discussions invariably fell back upon the classic definition of success: getting good grades, being accepted into a reputable college, and working at a high paying job.
Society has become possessed by the need to achieve. We fill our days with the most rigorous classes, our afternoons with intensive resume-building activities, our nights with studying, and our vacations with internships and volunteer work.
While we may enjoy our classes and extra-curricular activities, many simply participate in them to obtain the competitive edge and the credentials necessary to be admitted to a prestigious college. In doing so, we can lose sight of the main goals: knowledge and personal growth. Ask any senior what is on his mind and getting into a competitive college is likely to be the answer.
Even when we step back from the stresses of the college process, we often only define success through tangible achievement such as making money and beating our opponents.
Yet Steve Jobs, one of the most successful men in the world, defined success as following your heart, doing what you love. For Jobs, achievement was never a priority. After realizing his family could not fund his attending Reed College, Jobs dropped out and pursued his passion.
As commencement speaker for the Stanford University class of 2005, Jobs explained that he found success not by recreating the face of technology but by doing what he loved. Jobs divulged that, after being forced our of Apple in 1985, it was love of his work that helped him move forward. Jobs shared, “The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love.”
Because he enjoyed his work, Jobs was able to keep pursuing his dreams. He went on to become the CEO at Pixar, found the computer company NeXT, and eventually found himself back as the CEO of Apple.
For Jobs, it was doing what he loved (at an extraordinary level) that made him successful, not his various titles or innovations. His happiness was his success. In his closing words of his commencement speech, Jobs advised, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life…have the courage to follow your heart and intuition…everything else is secondary.”
Today, consumed by the imperative of grades and SAT scores, students find it hard to view the heart as primary. It’s easier said than done to accept that, if one pursues happiness, academic excellence will follow.
Jobs had all the emblems of success–money, power, revolutionary technological advances–and perhaps it was only his tangible achievements that allowed him to gain perspective and view happiness as his ultimate achievement. Jobs didn’t have to compromise financially to be happy, but he was only able to have this luxury through pursuing his passion.
What we should take away from Jobs is that there are multiple paths to success; by pursuing what makes us happy, we will find success.
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