Defining Success

As I left the dressing room of a retail clothing store a couple of days ago, a sales associate stopped me.

“I keep looking at you, and thinking I know you,” she said.

“Really? From where?”

“I don’t know.” She thought for a moment.  “What do you do?”

“I’m a teacher.”

She started to look excited.  “Really? What’s your last name?”

“Eichholz.  But it used to be Smith.”

“MISS SMITH!!!!!” she yelled, and ran over to hug me.

She had been my student over 20 years ago, and was thrilled to find out that I am still teaching.

If you had asked me 20 years ago if I would still be teaching now, I would have said, “No!”  Even though I loved teaching (and still do), I always thought I would eventually do something else – something that might make people look at me with admiration instead of pity, something that parents might envision for their children as a potential career instead of telling them that it might be a good “backup” just in case they get injured playing football.

I’ve been thinking about that encounter with my former student for the last three days. Last night, I saw an article about Strayer University’s quest to change the definition of “success.” The article includes a must-see video where people score themselves from a 1-10 on their own success.

The video definitely inspires reflection.  How should we define “success?”

I know how I define success:  When a person’s face lights up when she hears your name 20 years later.

image from: Stockmonkeys.com
image from: Stockmonkeys.com

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