Peter Fruchter's thoughts on things
Peter Fruchter

Table of Contents .......... Peter Fruchter

1. Success, Carolyn
2. Standards of Success

1. Success, Carolyn

Sat Jul 1 1995

I think Carolyn has become something of a celebrity. And, to be honest, I'm impressed.

But don't let me mislead you so soon. I'm not impressed with celebrity. I'm impressed with Carolyn.

Today, when I mentioned again that I would enjoy contributing to her virtual diary, she replied, "Go write this very moment, if you really would enjoy it." So, here I am. Writing. This very moment.

It's still too soon for me to mislead you. I'm not going to write primarily about Carolyn - not this very moment. I'm going to write about what impresses me, and why.

To get the totally trivial out of the way: what impresses me - and you - is the impressive. (Carolyn is impressive - so I wind up mentioning her again even this very moment; but I'm writing about impressiveness) Let's get this out of the way fast by asking What's impressive? and answering: Success.

Success impresses us. But this is still almost trivial - and I expect you are getting fidgety. No need. The next step gets interesting; at least for me. For you too if, like me, you're not as impressed with yourself as you'd like.

Just to stay clear: if you're not sufficiently impressed with yourself to admit you're not, you might want to stop reading now. If you genuinely are as impressed with yourself as you'd like, you have either my condolences or my congratulations. Probably, you have the former.

Now that we're all clear let's ask the next question and get interesting. What is success?

This is a heavy question and a first cousin to other heavy questions such as, for example, What is the good life? The choices one makes in course of living and the priority one places on the goals one pursues depend on how one answers this question. Here's the kicker, though: there either is no final answer, or no one knows what the final answer is.

How one answers this question is important - which makes the question, so long as it isn't trivial, interesting. But one can spend lifetimes answering it unsuccessfully. To nail that down: whatever success might be, trying to answer the question What is success? is not it.

Possibly; but we must have an answer if we are to make decisions and choose goals in our lives. So where does that leave us? It leaves us with answers that we don't arrive at ourselves: with answers supplied by tradition, implied by fashion, provided by whim or indicated by convention.

Actually, this is where most of us are left. Some of us are not left behind in this way. We try to answer questions ourselves which might not be answerable with finality. Obviously, we think it is a mark of success to do so. Perhaps we believe that it is beneficial to answer questions even without any finality? Perhaps we believe some of the benefit in an attempt to answer lies in the attempt rather than the answer? Perhaps we don't trust answers received from tradition, fashion, whim and convention?

Well, answering with finality is over rated - we can't be reasonable and certain that better answers are never forthcoming. And trusting important answers - and decisions we make based on such answers - to tradition, fashion, whim and convention may constitute letting others do our thinking and deciding for us - a bad idea if those others don't give a hoot about us or are long dead and irrelevant or think poorly or wish to enslave us...

The question What is success? is so interesting and important that it is crucial that each of us expend some minimum effort to answer it ourselves. I, for one, have and continue to expend effort to answer it. I'll tell you about it tomorrow.

Table of Contents .......... Peter Fruchter

2. Standards of Success

Sat Jul 7 1995

Having long since given up attempting to answer the question What is success? directly. I now remember that when I gave it up something rather nice occured. I was less taken up with answering the question, and thereby able to take a second look at why there seem to be so many competing answers to it - with no apparent means of choosing among them. Obviously, how one answers the question itself depends on one's own standards of success. It was in taking a third look, this time at standards of success that things started to make some sense to me.

Table of Contents .......... Peter Fruchter

Carolyn's Diary
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