Or, maybe instead, how do you know if your life is a success?
What are the criteria? Who gets to decide? Is your life a failure if you go to prison? If your kids go to prison? Are you a failure if you don’t do what you want to do for a living? If you don’t do what are you supposed to do for a career?
When is it too late to fix it?
Considering that a life includes many stages and levels, maybe the answer is always subject to qualifications and/or temporary current circumstances. Maybe a person can always make amends and change. Or, maybe it is part of the human condition that we are always just a few degrees away from either success or failure…and the decisions we are always making are constantly swinging the pendulum back and forth.
The person that goes to prison can reform. The person responsible for a drunk driving accident can make amends. The person commiting adultery can quit. The person engaging in destructive behaviour towards other people can stop.
Or, maybe not.
Maybe the criteria are locked and fixed. Maybe the hands of fate don’t allow for a second and third chance. Maybe our flaws are too many to overcome. Maybe even those with apparent success are hiding significant faults.
Is religion the answer? Is acceptance of a lord and saviour enough to allow a free pass? Is it merely enough to try to succeed, in order to overcome fate? Is it only at death that we are judged as good or bad, success or failure?
Decisions made years ago, and early in life, have a bearing on incidents that happen later in life. No one is ever truly able to escape their past. Decisions made at one point with the confidence of correctness can later be determined as incorrect. Time marches on. Nothing is ever over. Does this knowledge force us into a state of intellectual paralysis?
Does enlightenment occur from the knowledge of this pendulum of good versus evil and success versus failure? Maybe those that are aware of the precarious balance are thus successful as a result, while those who are oblivious are failing…will fail…can’t stop from failing.
A four foot tall person who decides to be a center in the NBA will probably fail. A person who wants to walk on the moon, but doesn’t join NASA, will probably fail. A woman who wants to win the Person of the Year award, but embezzles all of the money from the PTA, will probably fail. So, key to the determination of success and failure is probably for there to be an outline of recognizable and realistic goals. But, conversely, goals that are too easily attained shouldn’t necessarily determine success either. Remembering to put the seat down is just not enough for a person to give themselves a gold star.
Altruism, kindness, generosity…those are universally recognizable and realistic goals. Those are goals that benefit both the individual and society as a whole. Pursuit and realization of those goals should probably allow a person to be considered as successful.
Failing to follow those guiding principles…well, failure is as failure does.
So, are we to feel sorry for those jamokes that don’t get it? Can we help those jamokes that choose to make mistakes? Can we look the other way while they fail? And, are we then also failures as long as there are those without the knowledge of this path to enlightenment…those who fail to see it…those who fail to do what is right…those jamokes who just fail? It’s a philosophical conundrum.
“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.”
“This above all,–to thine own self be true; and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”
“Our deeds determine us, as much as we determine our deeds.”
“All a man can betray is his conscience.”
“Every man’s work, whether it be literature or music or pictures or architecture or anything else, is always a portrait of himself . . .”
“It is no use lying to one’s self.”
“Work hard and become a leader; be lazy and never succeed.”
Words down through history provide insight into the question.
Thus, ‘Honesty and Right Action’ determines success…regardless of the endeavour…anything and everything short of that is failure.