Tales of a Middle-Aged Dad #59: Success

Written by Alex on September 5, 2017 - 0 Comments

Dear Ivan:

During my senior year of high school, I was voted by my classmates to be the boy “Most Likely To Succeed” (there was also a girl who was voted “Most Likely To Succeed).  That was 32 years ago.

Regrettably, I believe that my classmates over-estimated my career trajectory or under-estimated that of our peers.  Indeed, I can tell you that many people I went to school with have been and are quite successful.  Our ranks contain millionaires, highly successful lawyers, financial wizards, marketing professionals, and I’m sure many, many others who are noted in their field of choice. These are people with wealth and career success, large houses, and, from what I can glean from Facebook, amazing vacations.

For my part, I can report that your daddy has had some success.  I’m not as rich as some of my classmates, nor as well-regarded in my fields of endeavor, and, as you know, we don’t take very many vacations.  On the other hand, I did complete 8 marathons (coming in first in my age group in one), and even today, at age 50, I can do 15 pullups in a row.  I realize my success may not seem as “successful” as some with whom I attended school.  I know.  It seems that way to me too.

On the other hand, how many of those guys still weigh what they did in high school and can do more than 1 pushup in a row?

Still, all of this begs the question: What does it mean to succeed or to be successful?

Most people I think would argue that wealth is a demarcation of success.  But is the having of money the success or is it the attaining of money the success?  In other words, people would no doubt agree that Warren Buffett, who has spent a lifetime working hard and investing to make tens of billions of dollars, is successful.  But, is someone who inherits tens of billions just as successful?  In other words, does the money itself make someone successful or is it the getting of money through hard work the success (with the money serving as some sort of barometer of score-keeper of how much success is or has been obtained)?

Many would also argue that fame is a hallmark of success.  But is fame alone the indicator?  For example, Charles Manson remains, decades after his crime, famous.  But is he a success?  I suppose those with a dark view of the world would argue that he was successful in carrying out his criminal plot.  On the other hand, he was caught and convicted and sentenced to jail and has served most of his life in prison.  Still, in today’s celebrity culture, fame does seem to indicate success (or at least presage success).  But does that mean that those who aren’t famous, no matter what they’ve accomplished, aren’t successful?  What of the financiers and Hedge Fund Managers who may not be well-known but who have made millions or billions of dollars?  Are they not successful because they’re not household names?  Or what of the scientists who daily carry out important research and studies to improve life?  When they discover something important, they may not always get accolades and fame, but can we say they have not succeeded?

And, what about those who have money and fame and power but who are unhappy?  Can someone be successful if they’re miserable?  If a rich and famous person has no friends and no family with whom they are close and with whom to share the benefits of all their wealth and fame, are they still a success?  Can you have success with an asterisk?

The point is, success is a complicated concept.

All of which brings me back to . . . me.  Thirty-two years ago, my classmates said I was the “most likely to succeed.”  That was nice of them.  It felt good at the time. But, I can tell you that for most of the years since then, I haven’t felt very successful.  I never did become a major league baseball player.  I don’t have that much money, or any real fame or power.  I’ve never owned a home or purchased a new car or created an App.  And, despite the fact that I’m a comedian, Mommy basically thinks I’m unfunny (at least at home).

But, we live at a time and in a place and we have enough that I don’t have to worry about whether you have clothes or food or drinkable water.  We have a home, and we have family and friends, and we have so many tv channels (especially if you include Netflix and Apple TV) as well as device on which to watch tv, that it’s hard to argue that we’re not doing pretty well.

And, of course, I get to be your daddy, which is pretty awesome especially when watching the Captain Underpants movie together.

So, I hope you’re as successful as me in your life.  Truth is, I hope you’re even more successful.  I hope you get the money and the fame and the power, the big house, the vacations, the cars, the everything.  But, remember, those are trappings of success.  They are not themselves success.  The success comes from doing what you love and being with the folks you love (and not having to worry about Donald Trump doing something ridiculous).  So, don’t worry about whether you’re the “most likely to succeed.”  Just succeed, and the rest will take care of itself.

And, I’ll try to do the same.

Love always,


Leave a Comment