We all want success, but we don’t agree on what that means

01/22/2014 7:23 AM

01/22/2014 7:23 AM

People everywhere want to be successful, but how do they define success?

For Lee’s Summit High School senior Sydney Merrell, “Success is doing what you love and being able to share that love with others, and doing this by going above and beyond peoples’ expectations of you.” She hopes her passion for books and art will eventually translate into success as an editor and illustrator.

Habib Hassan, a senior at the University of Missouri-Kansas City who wants to become a doctor, agrees that working in a field he loves and being around people he loves are important for happiness.

However, having immigrated to the United States from Nigeria at the age of 4, he also realizes that’s not all that matters. “Income, somewhat unfortunately, does come into play,” he said.

“Being financially unstable, ironically, makes money a major issue,” he said. Financial security has to be part of any strategy toward what he considers success.

“This is it!” thought Laura Coppess of Kansas City North when she landed her first teaching position. She had found success by helping students succeed. But after several years of teaching, her son Connor was born and the emphasis shifted. While working with sixth- and eighth-grade gifted students is still extremely important to her, she says, “I now look to my son and husband to define my success.”

Coppess said, “When you bring a child into your life, everything changes and the rules that you used to live by no longer apply. You start to look inward at yourself and you want your child to be proud of you and that drive opens you up to a new definition of success.”

Entrepreneur Kate O’Neill Rauber of Kansas City spent nearly 15 years in corporate communications before creating Sink Cycle, a company that produces a sanitation solution for people on the go, and is working on something to stop the spread of water-borne diseases in the world’s poorest regions.

“In the corporate world, success was a bonus, a top score on my performance review or being identified as a high performer,” she said. But as an entrepreneur, she now sees success in creating jobs, improving health outcomes and building a legacy.

“Being an entrepreneur has taught me that success is in the mundane,” Rauber said. “I know now that success isn’t always met with fanfare or a big check. Sometimes, it’s simply having enough grit and belief in your idea to go one more day.”

Belton paramedic and firefighter Todd Geringer’s perception of success has also evolved over time. While people in their 20s often have tangible goals such as buying a car or getting a job, he said, older adults seek more abstract accomplishments.

“I have a fulfilling marriage, a wonderful wife, happy and well-adjusted daughters, and a fulfilling career that creates opportunities for me to share my talents with others,” he said. “Happy at home and happy at work, I would call that successful!”

“The older I get,” said Dennis Meier, associate director of Synergy Services in Parkville and a family therapist for 30 years, “the more I feel that success is not so much about whether I am successful, but rather about whether ‘we’ (Synergy) or ‘we’ (my family) are successful.”

Gerald Gorman, a graduate of Harvard Law School and a partner in the Kansas City legal firm of Slagle, Bernard & Gorman, has held tight to his own personal definition of success for over 50 years.

“Obviously there are many aspects to success. For me, probably the most important one consists of having had the good fortune to be able to have a family — a wife, children and grandchildren and … to have been able to accumulate sufficient financial resources to provide good childhoods for our children.” Gorman said. “What more could one want or need?”


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