Writing Center
Spring 2012 Edition

What Makes a Successful Person?

Kandra Carroll
Expressive 1010 1st Place
Professor Dr. Julie Simon

Most people generally believe that someone who is “successful” is either rich, famous, or a stand-out in their field. I think it depends on what one’s idea of success is. There are many people the world calls successful that I do not consider much of a success at all. I do not think it takes money, athletic ability, or achievements to become successful. I believe that successful people are those who make a difference in the life of another by simply choosing to be good at whatever it is that they do.

When I was younger I thought that to be a success I had to excel at something. Not that I do not admire those that were straight A students, the jocks, or those that were gifted in music, art or drama, but does one have to be in those groups to be considered a success? Though I worked hard in school and did my best, I never got straight As. I had some talent in art and music, but was really just average. The only thing I did excel at was track. I was excited to be the only girl in my high school to go to state in the 400-yard dash. However, when I got to the state championships, there were girls that were faster than me, and I didn’t win. In fact, I didn’t even place. After high school, I went to college for three years, but never finished my degree. I ended up getting married, and my husband and I started our family. Some people might say that I never really achieved any great success in my life, but I would beg to differ. I believe that what I have done with my life could possibly be greater than most of those “successful” people can ever say they have done.

I have been married to the same man for over twenty-eight years. I have raised four great children who are happy, independent, caring, and productive individuals, and I am very proud of them. I have kissed boo-boos, helped with homework, volunteered in the PTA, helped sell Brownie cookies, made my children practice instruments, and helped my son get his Eagle. I have gone to numberless soccer, basketball, volleyball, and football games to cheer my children on (or simply watch them pick flowers in the field). I have also listened to numerous piano, band, orchestra and choir concerts.

For the past ten years I worked with two severely handicapped little girls who needed extra love, patience and attention to progress, and I feel that I was good at my job. Those little girls learned and accomplished things that no one ever thought they could. My desire for being a kind person, a good neighbor, and for serving in my community has blessed me more than I could have ever benefited anyone else. I have found that there is no greater feeling than knowing that you might have changed another person’s life for the better, whether it was something small or rather significant.

Through the years I have learned that to be truly happy and successful yourself, you need to learn to make others happy and successful. “Do unto others...” is not obsolete or an old fashioned cliché, but is still one of the most simple and yet profound rules to success. I have been taught this all of my life, but this lesson stood out most while watching some 7th and 8th grade Junior Jazz basketball games.

My husband had volunteered to coach my son’s 7th grade Parks and Recreation team. When he signed up, he was told that every boy should have equal playing time, since these boys were there to learn the game and have fun, not to become professional athletes. Some of the boys on the team had never played before or were not as gifted athletically as others; however, since the parents had all paid the same amount to watch their boys play and all of the boys came to practice, he felt that being fair was the right thing to do, no matter what.

Being fair may sound like an easy thing to do, but when it comes to game time, it’s not that simple. Unfortunately, there were times during some of the games that I questioned my husband’s decision to stick by the rules. Should he substitute a boy in or out so that they could win the game? In the end, he proved to me that it pays to do the right thing. The boys may not have won the A division championship that year, but they did win the B division (a lower level championship). It didn’t matter to the boys whether they won the A or B division; they had a great time and ended the season feeling like champs. My husband felt great about what he did for the boys, and in return those boys loved my husband because he was fair and made playing basketball fun.

The following year my husband got another group of boys to coach. Just like the year before, there were some good, some average, and some not so good athletes, but my husband’s decision to follow the rules stayed the same. They ended up at the final game undefeated, and the team they were playing for the championship was just as good. It was going to be a very competitive game, and I wondered if my husband might waver a little on the rules, just this once. I watched the other coach play his best players the whole game without subbing, while my husband played his team fairly. The head of the Junior Jazz department actually told him that since the other coach wasn’t subbing in, he could do the same if he wanted to. Although it may have been a temptation, my husband had made a decision to do the right thing, and in the end he stood by his rule and it paid off. That group of ragtag boys ended up winning the A division championship.

Whether it was living by the golden rule, Karma, or just plain magic, I learned a powerful lesson that year. Those boys were all just your average 7th and 8th grade basketball players; there weren’t any real superstars, but with a coach that believed in them as individuals and as a team, they learned to believe in themselves, which gave them the edge. That was the magic that made them great, and my husband proved that treating others fairly and doing the right thing does make a difference. He taught those boys lessons that they can take with them for the rest of their lives. They learned that by working hard, playing fair, and never giving up on themselves or their team, they could do anything. To this day my husband thinks back in fondness of those years as basketball coach, not just because they won the A and B division championships, but because he knows he did it right and made a difference in the lives of a few boys.

To make others happy, to make a difference in the life of another, to help someone else succeed, that is someone who is a true success. The rich can have their money, sports stars can have their trophies, and Hollywood can have their awards, but I wouldn’t trade the times I have spent at my children’s games or concerts, watching my husband coach, helping those little girls learn and develop, or volunteering in my community for all the “success” in the world. The older I have gotten, the more I realize that success is not so much in what I have achieved in life, but in who I am becoming and how much I have helped others along the way. The world may not think I have ever done anything worthy of “success,” but I consider myself to be a very successful person.