Success is the optimal balance of talent, time and treasure, and how we use and understand each.

By Robert A. Scott, President, Adelphi University

Reading the bio’s of the 2009 David Award honorees, and thinking about those honored in the past, I reflected on the meaning of success. These men are recognized for accomplishments in their professions and in the community. They are heralded as successful. But what is success?

Most people seem to think of success in terms of achievement in the realms of status, wealth, or power – – in relation to others. I wonder, though is this dimension, “in relation to others,” necessary to understand success? I think not.

For me, success is the optimal balance of talent, time and treasure, and how we use and understand each in terms of status, power, and wealth.

By “talent”, I mean how we use the gifts of mind, body and spirit we have as a result of heritage, nourishment, practice, motivation, happenstance, and luck. No scholar, athlete, artist, or community leader of note is born successful. It takes circumstance and initiative to develop talents to their fullest.

By “time”, I mean time for others as well as self. A single-minded focus on honing skills, enhancing abilities, and accumulating knowledge may result in the maximum development of talent, but may also result in a life devoid of the pleasures that come from relaxation, conversation, companionship, and community involvement. Time is a scarce resource, just as talent is; neither should be squandered.

By “treasure”, I mean that with which we start and that which we gain. Just as we can lose sight of important dimensions of life by focusing on achievement through talent alone, or by being selfish in the use of time, we can lose perspective – – and sometimes integrity – – by focusing solely on the accumulation of wealth. Those who measure success through the size of bank accounts or the brand of cars and yachts, who keep score by counting currency, may know the cost of everything but the value of nothing.

This is not to say that we should ignore financial rewards, or that money is somehow bad. No, it is to argue for balance in how we organize our lives.

In my view, the successful life is one that achieves symmetry in the attention given to the use and understanding of talent, time and treasure for one’s own fulfillment of life’s dreams, and realizes that status, power, and money are measures used by others without regard to our own standards. Who matters more? Them, or you? For the David Award winners, the answer seems clear.

Networking Magazine, February 2009. (The “David Award” is presented to ten men each year selected for outstanding community service and professional accomplishment.)

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