My Definition of Success
By Chen Heng 陈恒 上海外国语大学
“Once upon a time， there was a king who had a daughter as beautiful as a blooming rose. To all the suitors who came to the king's palace to ask for the hand of the princess, the old king assigned three tasks to be accomplished, each next to impossible. One day, into the king's palace came a handsome young prince..." Well, you know the rest. The three tasks may be different in different versions, but the main plot is always the same, with the prince claiming the princess's hand triumphantly.
And the ending is always the same, finishing with the line "And they live happily every after."
Why aren't we tired of something so fanciful, so unrealistic, and, I would say, so unimaginative? How can a story like that endure generations of repetition`? Because, I think, it is a typical success story. It is highly philosophical and symbolic. By implication, we see a 4-step definition of success: 1 ) a goal to be set. as represented by the beautiful princess; 2 ) challenges to be met, as represented by the three tasks; 3 ) the process of surmounting difficulties, as represented by the ordeals the youth goes through; and 4 ) the reward of success, as represented by the happy marriage.
The story not only caters to everyone's inward yearning for success, but also emphasizes the inseparability of the process and the result. The reward of success will be much amplified if the path leading towards it is treacherous, and vice versa. If a person inherits his father's millions and leads an easy life, he is not a successful person even in material terms, because there are no difficulties involved in his achieving affluence. The term "success", to be sure. will not sit still for easy definition. But as I understand it, the true meaning of success entails a combination of both the process and the satisfactory result of an endeavor. To clarify my view, let me give another analogy.
If we changed the rules of football, greatly enlarged the goal and sent away David Seaman or any other goal keeper, so that another David, namely David Beckham, could score easily, then scoring would not give him the thrill of accomplishment and the joy that it brings. If we further changed the rules by not allowing Arsenal's defenders to defend, so that Beckham needed only to lift a finger, actually a toe, to score, then there would be no game at all, because the meaning of winning would have disappeared. In accepting the challenge, in surmounting the difficulties and in enduring the hardship, success acquires its value. The sense of attainment varies in proportion to the degree of difficulties on overcomes.
The concept of success is not constant but relative because the nature of difficulty is also relative. Something you do effortlessly might pose a great difficulty for a handicapped person. In acquiring the ability to do the same as you can, he or she achieve success. That's why we greatly admire Stephen Hawking, because, though confined to a wheel chair, he has contributed greatly to the field of science.
I myself, a rather shy person by nature who easily suffer from stage fright, had to pluck up great courage to take part in a speech contest like this. I could have stayed away and had an easy time of it by not entering the university level contest.But I chose to accept the challenge and to face the difficulties. Now here I am. If I come out first, it will be a great success for me. If I come out last-I hope this will not be the case-but if I come out last, I will not call my attempt a failure, but will also celebrate it as a true success, because part of my goal is my own character training-to do more assertive, to be brave in face of difficulties. For me, it is a meaningful step forward, small as it is, in the long journey toward the final success in my life, because I have truly gained by participating.
Let us return to our handsome young prince and the 4-step definition of success. You my have noticed that the usual worldly criteria of wealth, position and fame were not mentioned as part of the story, but rather, it emphasized the process of overcoming difficulties. The ancient wisdom had already defined the meaning of success, and this is my definition, too.