How is it measured? What constitutes it – a subjective sensation, an objective judgment, or the loosely aligned combination of both? Is it the quantifiable reaction of others, or the measurable amassing of possessions and the value of the gross aggregate? Is the last one atop a proverbial hill of owning stuff what determines and adjudges the success of a person? How does one analyze a life – at what age, in which stage of the slice, and is there a specific point on a pendulum or spectrum, or is it more of a linear continuum where specificity in a point of historical categorization should be resisted in favor of looking at a wider expanse of a ‘period’ evaluation?
We sometimes state with dismay, “Oh, what a wasted life – a bum at so young an age, into drugs, imprisoned and wasting away.” Then, if it turns out later that the same individual became rehabilitated, worked on the “straight and narrow” proverbial path and “made a name for him/herself”, we revisit our earlier assessment and declare the individual as a paradigm of success.
Or, how about its corollary or opposite: In youth, a paragon of defining what success means, a near-prodigy of everything hoped for: College at the top of the class; great job; early earnings of astronomical proportions; mansion with servants by age 30; self-made billionaire (an aside and a quip, and food for thought: a couple of decades ago, we only heard of “millionaires”; now, there are countless “billionaires”; and now we are on the verge of recognizing the first “trillionaire”; query – is it because there are such people, or is it merely the result that world-wide inflation has steadily made currency more and more worthless and depreciated, or is it a combination of both?); perfect wife, near-perfect children (2 and a half by statistical standards); and the conclusion at age 35: Success.
Then, at age 45, divorce, the kids are mere nuisances, bankruptcy looms on the horizon and criminal prosecution for embezzlement is hinted and rumored. Do we retract the former declaration, or do we bifurcate it by saying: Well, he was successful for the first half of his life, not so much in the middle years, and became a bum, a criminal and a miscreant in his later years? Is it the entirety of an individual’s life to be assessed, or sliced in neat categorizations bifurcated for convenience of excluding the negative in balancing out a person’s achievements, then defining the applicability of what “success” means by sectioning off and cordoning into parts determined by subjective prioritization?
Thus, the concept of “success” is difficult to grasp in a general sense when applied to a person’s life; as an event for targeting, however, it is often focused upon a singularity of outcome.
In filing a Federal Disability Retirement application, to be prepared, formulated and filed by, or on behalf of, a Federal employee or a U.S. Postal worker, the narrow issue of success is quite an easy concept to embrace. Success is to obtain an approval from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, a Federal Disability Retirement annuity. Failure is to not receive it. The “middle ground” of uncertainty in coming to a conclusion is where it has been denied initially, but there are still further stages — the processing of Requesting Reconsideration, an Appeal to the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, as well as a Full Petition to the Board, and the final of all finalized steps: an appeal to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals.
There, it is somewhat more reflective of life itself: Success is still within one’s grasp, but there is still some work ahead to redeem the short-term failure in order to end up in the consequential judgment of a final assessment.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire