How do you spell success? How do I spell success?

In a back issue of Guidepost magazine, a retired business executive was once asked the secret of his success. He replied that it could be summed up in three words: “And then some.”

His explanation was that the difference between average people and top people was that the top people did what was expected of them and then some.

But how do you spell success? How do I spell success? Before going any further, let me say that success means different things to different people. Success also means different things to us at different times in our lives. And sometimes we cannot even define what we mean by success.

When Hamilton College celebrated its centennial, one of its most famous alumni, Alexander Woollcott, was asked to give a major address. Woollcott opened his speech this way: “I send my greetings today to all of my fellow alumni of Hamilton College, scattered all over the world. Some of you are successes, and some of you are failures — only God knows which are which.”

Today I want to sound four clear notes as to how we might spell success.

First, gratitude. In reality, there are no self-made people. Everybody who has ever accomplished anything has had others who helped. Every one of us have had friends who strengthened us by believing in us and giving us encouragement.

The late Ellsworth Kalas, a minister, professor and author, shared that several years ago he offered the invocation for commencement exercises at a large state university. He said he recalled one un-programmed event above everything else. At a strategic point, the president of the university invited graduating students to applaud their parents, spouses and sponsors, in appreciation for helping them to reach that wonderful day.

And then Dr. Kalas said that above all, the president could have invited the students to bow in gratitude to God, the source of life, breath, health and talent.

Second, humility. Most of us have what seems to be an “inborn drive for success.” Yet most of us find it harder to deal with success than failure. So often we become unbalanced when success comes our way. We start to read our own press clippings. Thus, our need is always God’s guidance so that we might carry out our success or successes graciously.

Third, faithfulness. My favorite definition of success is this one: Anything in God’s creation is successful when it functions within the purpose for which it was made.

What, then, is the purpose of a human being? The purpose of a human being is to become a child of God and to discover and live in the will of God.

No matter what else a person may accomplish in this life, if he or she has not carried out his or her purpose for being, then that person is not a success. Faithfulness is another special note.

Fourth, excellence. One standard of success is always the same: Are we bringing the best we have to the highest we know?

A lady told a concert pianist after a recital, “I’d give half of my life to be able to play the piano that well.”

The pianist responded, “Madam, that’s exactly what I gave.”

If there is any word that successful people despise it is the word “mediocrity.” They refuse to “just get by” or with “half efforts.”

One of the best examples I know of this excellence idea was recently demonstrated by the United States women’s soccer team in winning their second consecutive World Cup.

Not settling for anything but excellence, these United States women practiced and practiced and learned how to practice and play together and today they are world champions.

So how to I spell success? I spell it: gratitude, humility, faithfulness and excellence.

The Rev. Hal Brady is an ordained United Methodist minister and executive director of Hal Brady Ministries, based in Atlanta. You can watch him preach every week on the Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasters TV channel Thursdays at 8 p.m.

Managing Editor

Michael Davis has been the editor of the Jackson Progress-Argus since 2010. He previously worked as an editor and reporter for the Henry Daily Herald and Clayton News-Daily.

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