Confusing Fame With Success

for the week of May 29, 2000
by Rubel Shelly

It is so easy to forget what really matters in life. We tend to think that titles, power, and money make all the difference. So many of us would like to have the position in the company, athletic prowess, or beauty that another has. So we set our life courses accordingly. And we accumulate degrees and plaques. We focus on making more money. We starve and sweat to have a trim body.

Don't get me wrong! There's nothing intrinsically evil about any of these things. But are they the main ingredients to a life well-lived? Do they make a lasting difference? Will they have any value for eternity?

Here's a little quiz that might help make the point I have in mind:

* Name the six wealthiest people in the world.
* Name the last five Academy Award winners for best actor and actress.
* Name the four most recent Heisman Trophy winners.
* Name the last three winners of the Miss America pageant.
* Name two people who won the top prize on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
My guess is that you weren't able to answer all five questions. Maybe you couldn't answer three or even one. Me either! But these are the people who are the best of the best in their fields. It's surprising how quickly we forget things that seem so important at the time they happen. The applause dies down. Things that seemed so significant at the moment fade from memory and are forgotten.
Now here's another quiz for you. See if you do any better on it:

* Name six teachers who helped you during your educational career.
* Name five people with whom you enjoy spending some of your free time.
* Name four personal heroes whose life stories have inspired you.
* Name three people who have helped you through some difficult time.
* Name two people you can always trust to honor a confidence.
I'll bet you did better generating answers to this set of questions than the first one. Why? The people who really matter in our lives aren't the ones with awards and money but the ones with character and compassion. Shouldn't this insight be instructive to all of us about what to pursue with our lives?

Don't climb the ladder of success only to find you've leaned it against the wrong wall. I think it was the late Erma Bombeck who once wrote: "Don't confuse fame with success. Madonna is one, and Helen Keller is the other."

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