Shahriar Shahriari

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Message of the Month

February, 1999


Success is nothing more than self-defined semantics…

Quite a claim! Isn’t it?

I remember the days when I had allowed the society to define what would be the standard of success for me. You know, the usual things… profession, position, status, money, even family… But I was too much of an eccentric to allow that to last for long. Very soon I came to taste the tastelessness of society-defined successes that I had achieved.

At that point, I realized that success is something that I must define for myself, and then go out there and achieve it. That too lasted for some time, and it was more satisfying than other-defined criteria. At least it satisfied my needs for individuality and expression of my eccentricities.

Now, in hindsight, when I look at either path, I recognize the emptiness in both. I recognize that while I may have succeeded in certain things, I have often paid the price by neglecting something else. If I focus on professional success, I neglect family. If I can maintain both, I pay the price by having less time for self-understanding or leisure or something else. After all, there is only 24 hours in a day.

So what do we do? How can we succeed in life? What is success?

I have now realized that success is nothing more than a linguistic label that we have given to a particular state of mind. This label serves us by leading us to believe that we have devoted our time and energies to something worthwhile, and we have "succeeded" in achieving the desired results. This label serves us by making us believe that we have fulfilled a purpose in life.

Yet "success" is nothing more than a label. Any life is as worthy as any other. Any lifestyle is as valid as any other. The widow who is raising 5 children in one of the villages of India by toiling away in the rice fields or tea plantations is just as worthy as the CEO of a multinational corporation headquartered in New York. Agricultural labor is just as valid as corporate leadership.

So does that mean we should give up trying in life, or be satisfied with whatever comes our way?

Not necessarily. Success is a semantic definition that can only be achieved when a process comes to its completion, whatever the process may be. I am not going to argue by saying that success is in the journey (or process) and not in the destination. All I simply say is trying to aim for success is as futile as trying to grasp air. Success is simply a semantic definition, just like air is an invisible fluid.

We may breathe in the air and breathe it out. But to try to reach for success is as futile as trying to breathe in air and holding on to it.

So the question still remains: what do we do?

Just as easily as we breathe the air in and out, we should look at every moment of our lives as a breath, for in reality, it is no more than that. Then we simply appeal to our best mind or best consciousness, and do the right thing. Until the next moment, or the next opportunity or incident, when again we appeal to our best consciousness and do the right thing. That’s all there is to it.

Life is a succession of flowing moments. We can either try to block the flow, or hang on to the passing moments, or simply let them come, leave our mark upon them, and let them go.

With such a mentality, success is neither something to work towards, nor something to avoid. Success simply becomes irrelevant. And the good news is, by its very definition, "failure", the opposite of success, also becomes irrelevant.

May we live a life devoid of success and failure, and may we imprint our best mark upon every passing moment of our lives.

Shahriar Shahriari
Vancouver, Canada
February 1999

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