The purpose of our success Featured

9:34am EDT July 22, 2002

The joy we derive from success can be nearly bottomless.

To transform an idea into a profit-making venture is the goal of every business, and the process is not unlike watching your child change from a helpless infant to a crawling baby and finally, to a toddler taking his first wobbly steps. Anyone who has been involved in starting a business and watching it grow into a vibrant enterprise can instantly relate to the deep sense of pleasure it brings.

But success can just as quickly become a sword with two edges. Money and power can transform the humble friend you grew up with into a ruthless cutthroat who will stop at nothing on the road to becoming an arrogant Master of the Universe. Like drugs, success, when it's attained, is sweet, but we can never get enough, despite a spiraling search for ways to sustain the pleasure. The addict always needs a slightly larger dose to top that last high.

And yet we inevitably set goals to achieve ever greater success in a vain attempt to surpass ourselves; rarely do we take the time to enjoy the fruits of our labors. The paradox is that success demands a certain amount of discontent -- healthy in proper doses, though never when that discontent turns destructive.

Hollywood is overflowing with examples of the excesses that often come wedded to success. The soap opera lives of many of its leading figures make them the figures of Greek tragedy: After attaining fame and wealth, their lives begin to spiral out of control as they wander from one drug rehab center to another, forever trying to one-up that initial high.

Is there a purpose to all this seeking after success? Is the goal of success merely to build a bigger and brighter monument to ourselves before we die?

There are two other life questions we should ask ourselves as we go about growing our businesses. Why do I want to be successful? And what will I do when I am? Only by first answering these questions can we hope to begin charting our course.

Those who search for happiness in our possessions are destined for disappointment. The rush is fleeting, the satisfaction short-lived.

Why not try an alternate path? You need not practice philanthropy on so grand a scale as Carnegie's to derive a full measure of psychic pleasure. The next time you feel down, try visiting a nursing home and talking to someone who has no one else in life. Or volunteer to cook dinner at a homeless shelter. See if life doesn't soon begin to take on a deeper meaning.

You'll depart from this session of service with a great feeling, and it won't cost you anything but a modest investment of time. You'll receive in emotional satisfaction several times what you gave in time and effort.

The purpose of your success, once shrouded in impenetrable fog, may well come into sharp focus as you pursue goals more meaningful than the hunt for ever-greater love of self. And you won't have to share your little secret with anyone. You alone will know about your good deed, and that's more than enough.

Try it and let us know the results. Fred Koury (fkoury@sbnnet.com) is president and CEO of SBN.