News, Column

Breaking Through The Mold Of Success

In this busy fall season of internship recruitment and post-graduate job applications at Boston College, it is easy to ascribe to a particular model of what it means to succeed. As students of an elite university, it often seems that we are traveling down a road inextricably leading toward an illusive idea of “success.” Perhaps we were raised to think that success was a tangible goal that we would receive upon a completion of a set number of tasks such as achieving good grades in high school, getting into a renowned college, making important connections, scoring a well-paying job, and starting a family. But when looked at critically through the reality of the world, success when limited to this storybook sense of achievement does not look the same for everyone.

At BC, we’re frequently inundated with lectures and workshops that are intended to help us chart our paths for success in life, but what about those people that do not seem to fit that mold? By seeking solely tangible and evidence-based results as benchmarks of accomplishment, we inherently are leaving out a whole class of people, work, and lifestyles that can also be deemed as successful, even if they don’t produce straight-As, a wide circle of friends, or leadership of a variety of clubs. Success in life also entails being loved and appreciated by your fellow humans in light of any missteps you might make, regardless of what tangible evidence-based results you contribute to the world.

It is easy to measure success by whether something or someone is working correctly, making concrete changes, or innovating some facet of life. Rev. Greg Boyle, S.J. says in his book Tattoos on the Heart, however, that, “if our primary concern is results, we will choose to work only with those who give us good ones.” What are we actually doing if we’re not working in fields and enterprises that may not deliver the archetypal success and achievement that we are raised to expect? How might it make fellow students, and people, feel who do not ascribe to these set standards for success? In the real world, situations and people do not always deliver the intended results, but life is not a math problem, and that does not mean that they’re inherently invaluable.

Success is often relative and can mean different things to different groups and individuals. For a CSOM student, getting a well-paying job at a financial firm may be the pinnacle of one’s efforts, whereas for a family living in a low-income neighborhood in Boston, success may take the form of sending their children off to college and making sure that there is enough food on the table. We, as students at a North American university, sometimes are tempted to think that because we are handed many opportunities in our lives, that our definition of evidence-based success should be universally applicable. One does not always need to have examples to show for his or her efforts of achievement in order to be deemed a valuable human being, however. As Dorothy Day once said, “don’t worry about being effective, just concentrate on being faithful to the truth.” Through being faithful to our own truths, regardless of what our peers or society may tell us, we are successful in our own right.

Featured Image by Kemeng Fan / Heights Staff

October 2, 2014