For some it is a sexy job title, a plump bank account, a happy marriage, our children´s grades, for others it may be winning an election, being in power or gaining fame and respect, for still others it simply means a state of mind. SUCCESS is a very subjective and complicated word to define. Most english language dictionaries will define it as “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose”. By definition thereby, it warrants us to set the “right” goals and to doggedly pursue them until we accomplish them. But what happens when an accomplishment can fail to translate into satisfaction ? or even worse (god forbid) when you do not have goals to pursue ?

As a researcher, for me, it often meant going from one failed experiment or idea to another failed one without significant loss of hope or enthusiasm. But I dare not extrapolate it and advice a married soul that it means going from one failed spouse to another without loss of hope. That would mean having a satisfactory spouse is the “right” goal and its achievement the quintessence of success. Such sweeping generalizations therefore would not only be erroneous but dumb. However, this subjectiveness of what success means, neither prevents us from constantly attempting to define it. While dictionaries may find it hard to revisit the definition of success, amidst their struggle to accommodate “twerk” and “selfie”, we definitely need to personally pause and reflect what it means to us. After all, life is all about spending valuable energy chasing after success and satisfaction whatever be ones definition of it.

I once attended a lecture of Robert Allan Weinberg, an unparalled scientist in the genetics of human cancer. He had collected all the failed experiments in his laboratory and presented a compelling case for a new hypothesis !!! . No doubt it impressed me, but more so it made me re-evaluate not only science but life. He elegantly showed, that one common error we all make, which has serious consequences as we grow older, is the belief that failure is the opposite of success. That is one thing that its not. “Failure” is a lesson, it teaches us what not to do or what something cannot be and pushes us to look for another approach until we find one that works. Just recollect how our parents introduced us as a child to any new activity from walking, to drawing, to cycling, to working our homework from school. Commonly, as children we failed at first, often becoming frustrated, even tearful. Parental responses were, “you’ll get better with practice”, “nobody gets it right the first time”, “failure is the stepping stone to success”, “anything worthwhile takes time and effort”, and so forth. In unambiguous words, our parents were saying that we cannot succeed without failure. As adults we somehow lose that perspective and we crave for success and shudder at the thought of failure. Should we not revisit our childhood and partake that valuable lesson once over again ? It does not matter how we define success, be it a sexy job title, a plump bank account, a happy marriage, our children´s grades, being in power, gaining fame and respect, or even as a state of mind. What is important is to realize that success is not final, neither is failure, it is the courage to continue that matters above all.

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