Saturday, May 12, 2007

A Definition of Success

As Jon Stewart explains (click graphic to view), when you can't even decide what success is, how can you be expected to recognize failure—especially your own?

Murder divides the soul against itself. This is the lesson of J.K. Rowling's story of the "horcruxes" in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. You can kill and kill and kill and kill, but you will only be driven farther from success, until you finally don't even know what it means.

Success is not the humiliation of an opponent or the destruction of an enemy. You can call out threats from the belly of an aircraft carrier until your apoplectic heart withers, but you will never have success.

Success is outward movement from a center. In my own life, I've most commonly seen it follow an arc-like course, frequently along a two-steps-forward-and-one-back pattern. For there to be success, the ear must be attuned to the teaching voice of error. This, incidentally, may also be true of Nature, specifically in evolution: two paces outward followed by one regressive step; then a correction and another outward advance.

I suppose it may be theoretically possible to have constant, forward progress, where every step is confident, assured, and regenerative. Yet when I look around me, I see no evidence of such progress, so it may as well be a lie told by tyrants. Where, indeed, do we see such linear advance in practice—even in science or technology, where results can be objectively measured?

So I would prefer that we focus on what we experience, not on what a theory or an ideal may suggest. Awaken yourself to the voice of error; share every mistake as fully and eagerly as you share your triumphs; for experience has taught me that we are more truly led forward by our mistakes than by our victories. To recognize an error is already to advance.

Be grateful, then, for your mistakes; love them for their teaching energy, and your grip upon them will progressively lighten, making them all the easier to release.

No comments: