Success is at hand at any age Print
Youth Column
Written by Erick Rommel, Catholic News Service   
Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014 -- 12:00 AM

Many of you, like me, have grown up being told that success is only possible after many years of hard work. You must pay your dues. You must climb the ladder of success. There are no shortcuts. To reach the top, you must start at the bottom and climb one rung at a time.

I never liked that definition of success. I never believed it was true. I still don't.

That's not to say that many people don't find success in that manner. They attend college, graduate, and get a job. Slowly, they ascend to a position of respect and recognition.

In some fields, that journey is necessary and many who follow it are happy with the life they create. But to assume it's the only way to be successful leads to pain and disappointment for those meant to follow a different road.

Sometimes, those who find the greatest success and the greatest recognition do so by choosing a different path. They realize if they wait for their turn, success may pass them by.

In 1997, Tara Lipinski became the youngest U.S. figure skating champion when she was just 14 years old. Later that year, she won the world championship. Once again, she was the youngest ever to win the title. The following year, she earned a place on the U.S. Olympic team. At the Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, she won the gold medal.

At 31, she is retired from the sport and remains the youngest individual gold medalist in the Olympic Winter Games.

It's not just athletes who grab success as soon as it becomes available. There are phenoms in countless other fields, regardless of age. To hold them back because of the year of their birth would deny the world the benefit of their brains.

Frederick Banting is the Tara Lipinski of medicine. He and his mentor, John Macleod, received the 1923 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine after discovering insulin. Banting was 32.

Paul Dirac was 31 when he received the 1933 Nobel Prize in Physics for advances in atomic theory, along with Erwin Schrodinger.

Mairead Corrigan organized peace protests in Ireland. She received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1976 when she was 32.

Each of these people earned some of the highest honors in the world at an age many professionals would consider young. They didn't wait for their turn. They had the ability to be successful and they worked to turn that ability into a skill to achieve what they knew was possible.

They realized that work is the key ingredient for success at any age. By working hard, they realized the common definition of success has a major flaw. It says that time is necessary in order to succeed.

That's incorrect.

Success isn't a constant. It's a goal we should each measure differently.

Some work as hard as possible and they become Olympic champions or Nobel laureates. Others work just as hard and fail to balance on skates or successfully create a baking soda volcano. Talent is not equal, but unequal talent can bring equal joy.

If you enjoy what you do, it shouldn't matter whether you're the best in the world, as long as you're the best in your world.

Identify the paths that you'd most enjoy traveling and identify your definition of success. If you do that, you will always find contentment.

That's the ultimate success no matter what you do.

Erick Rommel is head staff writer for The Catholic Spirit in the Diocese of Metuchen, N.J. His column is syndicated through Catholic News Service.


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