To laugh often and much;
to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
to earn the appreciation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends.
To appreciate beauty;
to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition;
to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.
                                                        —from the poem Success, attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you have been following my blog for a while, then you know that I like quotes—quotes on life, on happiness, on living well, on retirement and now a quote on the definition of success. It’s a poem actually, one that I would like to examine a little closer with you now.

To laugh often and much;

Laughter can have the same healing power of a relaxing, rejuvenating hot springs spa treatment. Studies have shown that experiencing a hearty belly laugh on a regular basis can help you decrease the negative effects of stress, strengthen your immune system and reduce pain. Psychologists have even used humor and laughter as part of their treatments to aid patients with acute anxiety and depression. So an Adam Sandler movie marathon or a night out at the local comedy club may be just what the doctor ordered when you are feeling low.

Best of all, laughter allows us to take ourselves less seriously and gives us the opportunity to be our authentic selves.

to win the respect of intelligent people

We all want to be respected. Gang wars and border skirmishes have been fought over a real or perceived critical word or negative gesture. None of us like to be dissed.

So how do you win respect? Here are a few ways:

  • Show respect first
  • Practice humility
  • Be dependable
  • Demonstrate generosity
  • Talk less and listen more
  • Be honest
  • Keep your promises

To put it another way, think of it like this:

Reputation + Character = Respect

and the affection of children;

If you want the affection of a child, especially your grandchildren, become a great mentor and encourager. Show them the way and be a model for them, because you are the one with the life lessons of experience to teach them. It is your privilege to share the support these young ones need to flourish and thrive in a successful life.

to earn the appreciation of honest critics

What is an honest critic? Certainly, there are those not-so-honest critics who will attempt to squash our dreams, rain on our parades and to derail us from the vision we have for our lives, no matter what the truth is. But there are times we need to listen to and learn from the honest critics who truly have our best interests at heart. Be open to the feedback of honest critics. Hear it, process it and decide the right course of action for you. That honest critic may just save you from an embarrassing moment or event, like walking around with parsley stuck between your teeth.

and to endure the betrayal of false friends.

Human beings are built to trust others, since mistrusting everything is a lot of work and creates tremendous anxiety. So when that natural trust is broken, it hurts. We’ve all been there. But remember that even those we call our friends are flawed individuals who will make mistakes. The best way to overcome your disappointment in another is to forgive, and thus allow your heart to heal. But always keep a wary eye on future encounters with false friends.

To appreciate beauty;

There is so much beauty in the world that it seems like it would be hard to miss. But sometimes we do. When we are so immersed in a hectic life with its deadlines and family obligations or have our faces glued to the screens of an electronic devices, we miss so much. Take a step back and recognize how beautiful life is.

Remember, too, not to spend too much time thinking about the future or dwelling on the past. You can’t do much about either. Spend more time just being in the moment and experiencing the present fully. Your soul will thank you.

to find the best in others;

I have had people in my life who brought out the absolute best in me and those that brought out the very worst. And it was easy for me to see which type they were by how their presence made me feel about myself and by what actions I took as a result of those feelings. Endeavor to be the type of individual who promotes the best in others. Do all you can to root for them to become their brightest selves. And in the end, we all will win.

to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition;

My wife and I have sought to leave every home we owned in better shape than when we bought it. Things like a new roof, a fresh coat of paint, added landscaping, a healthy weed-free lawn and a updated kitchen remodel are some of the upgrades that improved our homes. In the same way, be conscious of the lasting impact your life can have on all around you for the better. Open your eyes to opportunities to enrich others as you pass through their lives.

to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.

Over the years, I have had the chance to mentor, advise and guide several young people. At the time, I had no idea whether or not my words of instruction and encouragement were heard or made an impression at all. However, it has been so rewarding when these same children who are now adults tell me how much they appreciated my influence on them. It’s always fun to grab breakfast, a cup of coffee or a quick lunch to get caught up with these individuals to see how their lives are unfolding so we can continue to learn from one another.

I encourage you to use your life experiences to tutor, coach and prepare others for the tests and trials of life. Help as many as you can to become their most awesome, amazing and genuine selves.

This is to have succeeded.

Well said, Mr. Emerson. Well said.

Gary A. Weuve, CFP®
Founder and CEO

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