While growing up and even during the first phase of my nursing career, I had a 'dictionary - like' viewpoint of success.
Like this diagram, I viewed honesty, quality, team spirit and fairness as core components of success. I regarded success as purely professional. Like Webster's definition, success was seen as 'the attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like...'
Realistically, and hopefully not too cynically, I learned in June, 1999 that success didn't mean a whole bunch if you were dead. And just like that, my life perspectives were irrevocably changed...
Seventeen years later, how do I define success...? Well, in short strokes, I'd say success is a life well-lived.
I recently taught a two-day clinical rotation in an area nursing home. These nursing students are profoundly impacted by the seniors they care for. They learn life stories and pearls of wisdom in return for giving their hearts and hands to their assigned clients.
Over these two days, I was drawn to a particular client, 'J', who is 94-years-young. His mind is sharp as a tack. His body is healing from a fall and he'll be discharged later in the week to independent living, moving from the third to the first floor.
'J' gave me a run down of his children (two sons and a daughter), spouses and his grandchildren. He talked of each with honesty, pride and utter love.
'J' has amazing talent as an artist. The work he has done while in the nursing home is of museum-like quality.
'J' had been a cop in a rough area of the city where he'd grown up and retired after 30-years. The 'Barbara Walters' in me wanted to know if 'J' had ever been shot. He had been. Twice. The good news is, both were accidents, like the ricochet shot into his shoulder during firing practice.
'J' worked for a security company after he retired. He shared a few famous (from the area) folks that he'd driven, escorted to various functions. He smiled when relating that influence and money did not always equate to class and courtesy. He spoke of his interactions with Joe Frazier (I know some of you remember Joe, are no doubt smiling) which were positive and mutually protective.
Past 'J's' professional adventures, he lit up when speaking of his beautiful wife, who died five years ago. He described her as his partner, a truly good woman who had made him a better man.
My tissue supply was tapped when 'J' said he could die tomorrow and have no regrets. He had done everything on his bucket list and enjoys each day 'as it comes'.
To me, 'J' is one of the most successful men I have ever met.
I'm grateful to Mariah Fenton-Gladis for introducing me to this inspirational song, by Tim McGraw, Live Like You Were Dying.
I also asked this question in the recent questionnaire I sent out to some family, friends and colleagues. Check out these responses...
These answers are meaningful and most relatable. What an insightful group of men and women with much life wisdom. Thanks to each of you who responded and everyone else is invited to put your thoughts in the comment section.
Until next week, sending you peace and love,
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