The True Meaning of Success

I was driving home the other day when a billboard caught my eye. It was a large picture of an older woman with her arms crossed in front of her chest. She had a broad smile on her face. The caption read, “Put poor kids though college . . . pass it on.”
Hey, I’m doing that too, I remember thinking.
Only the poor kids are all mine. Ross and I have always lived on a modest single salary. People told us you can’t raise a big family without two incomes these days. You can – if you want to bad enough. We had a dream when we married. We wanted to raise a large family and make investments in our children. So we made plans and went to work so we could offer all our ten children a university scholarship when they graduated from high school. We knew investing in human beings brings meaningful dividends.
As the years went by we both had opportunities come to us that would have required we limit our family size or the amount of time we had to spend with our children. We passed. We had a vision. We knew what felt right for us, a personal formula for success that felt good to us in our own soul.
We all need a vision – an inner flight plan that takes us where we want to land. If our vision only includes acquiring more material possessions and not blessing the lives of others . . . that is what we will end up with in the end. Through the years we have observed people with stuff visions. When they achieved the big house, new car or notoriety they sought, it did not make them happy. Lives spent on self and acquiring more possessions never satisfies. The thrill of ownership fades as quickly as the red paint on a new sports car.
I starting writing newspaper columns so I could afford to give all my children piano lessons. Writing about being a mom was something I could do at home. One thing led to another and pretty soon the columns became books.
One Saturday morning I was signing books at Barns and Noble when someone walked up and said, “Wow, you’re an author. That’s so glamorous. I’ll bet you lead a pretty exciting life.”
I chuckled as I recalled the morning’s events before I got to the store. I’d snuggled with my husband and a half dozen kids in bed, done three loads of laundry, cleaned up after soggy waffles then nursed and changed the baby. Before I hopped in the van to drive to the bookstore I spied a pile of do–do on our driveway covered with flies. I noticed my toddler near the mess minus his pants and underwear.
“Do you know anything about this?” I asked
“Sorry Mom,” my little boy answered. “I had to go real bad and I couldn’t wait.”
So I quickly dragged out the garden hose and ran some bath water. We splashed until my little boy laughed so loud it made my heart sing. I was late for the book signing, but I really didn’t care. All the people I cared most about weren’t at the store.
“Actually,” I said turning to the stranger talking to me at the author signing table, “writing is pretty boring compared to being a mom. Now that’s exciting.”
When it looks good to the world but doesn’t feel good in our soul, it isn’t success.

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