Speaking of Success

I know. You and I were not speaking of success. And we’re still not speaking of success, but I’m going to rattle on about it for a few hundred words. I hope you’ll stick around and let me know what you think. 

As a young person, somewhere between childhood and adulthood chronologically, I clearly remember the definition of being successful financially. Keep in mind this was in the days of a minimum wage of $1.15 per hour, and the minimum wage law didn’t cover most jobs. My first job paid $0.75 an hour, and all the popcorn I could eat

In those days, some held you were “rich” or successful financially if your net worth was greater than $25,000.00. Now, I never heard anyone use the term net worth, but I clearly remember hearing you were wealthy if you had $25,000.00 more than you needed to pay the bills and keep a roof over your head. 

I never heard anyone say you could retire on $25K. The observation seemed to mean that you were financially successful and in good shape if you had that much money after everything was paid for.    

I know that sounds crazy in the modern world. However, remember that when I graduated from high school, the average price for a gallon of gasoline was $0.30, and you could often find it for less than $0.20 a gallon.

Looking back today, gasoline was not the only thing that seemed cheap. A nice little family home might cost less than $20,000, depending on where you lived, and a brand-new luxury car would cost around $5,000.00.

The question then and now is whether having money means being rich or successful. For most of the 20th century, there was only one way to measure success, wealth. That changed with social media, the internet, around-the-clock news, and talk shows. The negative side of wealth and so-called success was exposed for the world to see.

So, what is the definition of success? Or, more importantly, what is your, and my, definition of success? I cannot speak for you or anyone else, but I can share my definition of success.

First, my calling since I was knee-high to a caterpillar was to learn and help. I wanted to learn everything I could about almost everything, and I wanted to help others learn and help. I did not realize this until I was well into my adult life. Earning three degrees, having two careers, and a few unexpected moments helped me fill in the blanks.

As I wrote in Of Comfort Zones and Old Friends, as well as Cops, Kids, and Bicycles? It was how I affected others and how I handled things that made me a success. Oh, I made a few bucks, but I never became wealthy by anyone’s definition.

On the other hand, I have been blessed to hear from others over the years about how they saw me. In some cases, it was how I helped them or how they modeled themselves after me. Now that was a scary one, someone modeling themselves after me. I thought one of me in the world was more than enough at times.

Before I break my arm, patting myself on the back, let me close it this way. I consider it a success if something I did helps someone better themselves. I believe it is a sign of that success when people from my past seek to thank me for what I did or how I handled something. Sometimes, I wonder if they confuse me with someone else, but I’ll take the compliment.

© oneoldcop.com 2023



About S. Eric Jackson

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