Dealing with the Success Syndrome


Success is much more than a matter of achieving the right things; it is also a matter of being the right person. We must have something to hold up for our young, as our parents did for us, and say, ” This is success, child. Go after it!”

Howard Whitman

As we approached the banks of the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, the cab driver asked if I had ever seen a car crushing machine. “You’re about to see your first one then.”  He continued, “In a few minutes I am going to show you entire automobile bodies rolling along in assembly line fashion on a giant conveyor belt. They will go into a giant car-crushing machine that cost several million dollars. It takes sixty seconds to grind a car to bits.”

When I saw the instant-crusher, I reflected on the fact that the desire for achievement grinds up lives nearly that fast. When the average Joe tries to be successful, he chooses one of two approaches. Either his method of achieving what he calls success grinds him to powder; or, his method of achieving what he calls success grinds to powder the lives of all those around him. Anytime success is a life crusher, there is
something drastically wrong with the definition.

Well, that ought to be easy to get around. Go to the library, pick up a good book on success, memorize the
definition, and have a go at it. That’s what I thought!

I found out it must be easier to put “Success” in the title of a book than it is to define it (maybe that makes it sell better). I went to the library, started looking in books which claimed to be “How To Do It” books on success, and of the first six I picked up, no one even attempted to define it. No wonder lives are getting crushed in the success machine!

Somewhere we better change course. More has been written about it than ever before, but more people know less about it than in any preceding generation.

Allow me to illustrate. An insurance man and I were having lunch together. He was telling me that one of the big areas of his work was selling policies to medical doctors. In the course of the conversation he shared a comment which evoked considerable concern.

“A psychiatrist shared with me that of all the counseling cases he handles, at least one third of them are
young people. This is a drastic change from five years ago. But now this is the picture of nearly every day’s case load.”

Other psychiatrists whom my insurance friend later quizzed all agreed their pattern of cases was no different! After that conversation I began to take note of hospitals where I visited. Invariably I am astounded by the percentage of youth needing help. When I mentioned this at a meeting of ministers,
one of the clergymen said he walked onto the psychiatric floor of a large metropolitan hospital and there were so many he thought they were having a youth convention!

Times may be better than ever before, but we can’t stand much more of this kind of success!

The hero of a modern novel is in a Paris bar after the Wall Street debacle of 1929. The bartender asks him, “Did you lose a lot in the crash?” He answers, “I lost everything I really wanted in the boom!”

What Success Is Not
A simple little tract entitled “Is This Success?” bears oft repeating. “In 1923 a group of the world’s most successful financiers met at the – Hotel in Chicago.

“Collectively, these tycoons controlled more wealth than there was in the United States Treasury, and for years newspapers and magazines printed their success stories and urged young people to follow their examples. Here is the rest of the story:

Charles Schwab-the president of the largest independent steel company-lived on borrowed money the last five years of his life and died penniless.

Richard Whitney-the president of the New York Stock Exchange-served time in Sing.

Albert Fall-the member of the President’s Cabinet-was pardoned from prison so he could die at home.

Jesse Livermore-the greatest bear in Wall Street committed suicide.

Leon Fraser-the president of the Bank of International Settlement-committed suicide.

Ivar Krueger-the head of the world’s greatest monopoly committed suicide.”

Someone needs to stop and remind us again-making a living is but the means; life itself is the goal !

In 1961 a Southern businessman addressed 5,000 pastors in St. Louis. The story he shared was tough to tell.

When I returned to — following World War II, five of my closest friends were five of my town’s leading business and professional men.

I was with them constantly because we drank and drinking is great for compatible companions. These men had it all made.

One of them was the head of a large flour mill establishment in my state, just one jump from the top bracket in the home office.

Another was the regional head of the largest merchandising establishment in the world.

A third was the head of the largest brick plant in the state.

A fourth was a former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of our state who returned after the war to practice private law.

The fifth was the president of a bank where I had served.

At this very hour, only one of these men survive. Three are in suicide graves and one died in a mental institution. The lone survivor is living in retirement from a serious physical disability in the very noonday of his life. Were it not for the grace of God I shudder to think where I would be.

It may be just as important to define what success is not as to define what it is.

Success is not material satisfaction. “For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul” (Mark 8:3lj).

Success is not selfishness. When an individual sets goals for himself, he must make certain his goals are not
self-centered. There is no quicker way for God to withdraw his blessing.

Success is not life without problems. “In the world ye shall have tribulation” (John 16:33).

Success is not ego-mania. Paul wrote to the Galatians, “for if a man thinks himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceives himself” (Gal. 6:3). Some Christians have blacklisted any thought of success because of mistakenly relating it to egomania.

Success is not self-confidence. Confidence is to be centered on someone else. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4: 13). Jack Hyles has wisely noted, “Many a Christian has withstood the onslaught and attacks of the Devil on all sides only to find himself defeated by self-confidence because of his past victories.”

Success is not climbing the organizational ladder by walking roughshod over others. One man Jesus attempted to heal from his blindness was asked whether he could see. He replied, “I see men as trees walking. ” Jesus knew then that this man was only half healed (still 50 percent sick) and he touched him
again and healed him completely. It’s a sick man who sees others as no more than trees.

Success is not pleasing everybody. Try to please everybody, and no one will like you because of your
vacillating. “Woe unto you, when all men speak well of you” (Luke 6:26).

Success is not being a carbon copy. In the music school of the world’s largest seminary (Southwestern Baptist at Fort Worth) they humorously relate the years when most of the music ministers trained there led with three fingers. That’s the way the teacher did it-he had lost two of his in an accident!

The Christian can rejoice, “God does not expect me to be a carbon-copy of anyone!”

Keith Miller, in A Second Touch, excitedly exclaims, “What a relief! I saw that I had always been living a life like a suit two sizes too large, sort of hoping I would grow into it. . . . I had never felt at home in my own skin. . . . But now I was discovering that I could just be me, for Christ’s sake.’ ‘

Getting God in the Definition
As you formulate your definition of success, ask, “Is God in it?” God is not about to be catalogued out of the success business. Yet many want God to help them “succeed” just so they can quickly phase him out.

That happens even in the spiritual business. One uses his “spirituality” to get self-pity, another uses it to make himself the center of attention, and another uses it to act crazy so everybody will notice what he can do. In the name of spirituality!

A right definition of success is important from two sides from the side of having God in it, and from the side of having achievement in it. Defining success without having God in the definition leaves man without the blessing of God upon his life. Yet having God in the life and still not achieving is adding insult to the Infinite. God knows
More about success than man does
More about man’s needs than man does
More about goal-setting than man does
More about inner confidence than man does
More about power than man does, and
More about planning life than man does.

Since God knows all those things and provides the very route to our success, isn’t it incredible that we would leave him out of our plans?

What Is Success?
Secular man calls it “the prosperous termination of any enterprise.”

The dictionary calls it “the satisfactory accomplishment of a goal sought for.”

Wayne Dehoney has conducted several conferences on “Personal Dynamics.” In these he has discussed many aspects of success. He defines success as “the progressive realization of a person’s worthwhile predetermined goals.” He says they must be progressive-with man always moving toward them and always
setting more; they must be worthwhile; and they must be predetermined-involving the setting of short-range goals and long-range goals.

Before centering in on one precise definition, some closely related thoughts might help.
Success involves being right with God.
Success involves being able to accept yourself.
Success involves knowing you re on the winning team.
Success involves winning daily victories.
Success involves getting along with others.
Success involves achieving the maximum that can be achieved with what God has given you.

To get a successful definition of success, two things must be considered: ( 1) the individual himself, and (2) the individual’s goals.

Success involves the continued achievement of being the person God wants me to be, and the continued achievement of established goals which God helps me set. Continued-my achievement must go on. It is a daily process, an hourly process, or maybe better-a moment by moment process. It is achievement-reaching for, and accomplishing what I reached for.

It concerns my person-it is not something out there, it first concerns something within me. It relates to goals-something that keeps me stretching to become more of what he would have me be. It is always related to God-my person must be, my goals must be. And it is connected with what God wants-with that
in mind neither my person nor my goals will miss the mark.

Now ask, Am I being successful Am I continually being the person God wants me to be? Am I continually achieving the goals God helps me set?

Wise was the man who remarked, “We judge ourselves by what we plan to do. Others judge us by what we have done.” We might add, “God also judges us by what we have done, rather than by what we plan to do.”

Reviewing-success is the continuing achievement of being the person God wants me to be, and the continuing achievement of established goals God helps me set.
Have a go at it!