The measure of success

A few weeks ago, I was helping a student with her public speaking as she prepared for a contest the following week. She had been a student of mine for two years, and an involved member of the FFA program I advised, so we knew each other fairly well.

As we got to talking before practice, she proceeded to tell me she was a very studious person and always strived for excellence in the classroom. All of this rang true for me, and was evident by the fact she had never received anything less than an “A” since she began her school career…in kindergarten. She told me she really wanted to win this contest and eventually not just wanted, but needed to be valedictorian of her graduating class. As the discussion continued, we shifted our focus to “What is the true definition of success?”

This was a fantastic topic, and a question I had posed to agricultural educators across the state of Arizona since I began my career in agricultural education three years prior. Although this has been a brewing topic with me for years, it really hit me when my student sat down, looked me square in the eyes, and pointedly asked, “Well, Mr. McGuire, how do you measure success?”

Had she asked the same question three years ago when I first began my teaching career, I probably would have answered with something like the number of plaques on the wall, metals on your jacket, or laurels wrapped around your neck at graduation – objectively measured success.

But I’ve learned since then that personal success has nothing to do with any of those.

The measure of success is intangible.

Then, right in that classroom, after discussing success with my student for several minutes, it hit me…THIS is success.

The true measure of personal success is being able to exert a positive influence on another person’s life. Having someone call you in search of advice, asking for your help, or simply being a shoulder to lean on is the ultimate compliment. These people look up to you for counsel and guidance when they need it most. It is truly the only thing we have that we can ultimately completely control ourselves. We may not be on the panel that decides who will win an award, or part of a board that determines who will receive certain scholarship monies, but we can leave a positive impact on individuals with whom we come into contact. Even the most powerful and influential people in our society have positive role models who have molded them into the people they are today.

This fall, we do not want to measure our success by the number of tickets or pumpkins we sell. We want to measure success by the young people we positively influence in our community for years to come.