Recently, Steve Jobs died at the age of 56. He was co-founder of Apples Computer and the mastermind behind a number of Apples' "i's" - iPhone, iPod, iMac and iTunes. His impact on the world is no less illuminating and is certain to be no less lasting than that of Thomas Edison, the fourth most prolific inventor in history, who invented the long-lasting light bulb.
The sad news has just arrived of the death of Whitney Houston at the age of 48. O how her singing "I will Always Love You" and "Jesus Loves Me this I Know" have brought joy to my soul many times. She sold over 170 million records.
My reason for beginning this article focusing on Steve Jobs is because of a discussion I overheard involving three persons who like millions at the time were talking about Steve Jobs. They agreed that he didn't take care of himself. For months, if not years, we have heard that Whitney Houston was addicted to drugs. Many successful people die tragically, victims of their own success.
Most people seem to have some idea of the meaning of success. Perhaps, this is true because we are constantly reminded, even bombarded, by the media of people who are successful and advised as to how we too can become successful. This is enforced with the news that "There is or may be a millionaire next door." Frequently we hear from many sources, including the President of the United States, that hard work is the surefire prescription or formula for achieving success. Of course, this is not true , certainly not the whole truth. It is true that some successful people work hard as do many people who are unsuccessful. And some successful people 'hardly' work. Many hard-working people never taste success and some of them, as do some successful people, become victims of their hard work. Hard work can be fatal.
By success we mean the attainment of wealth, position, honors, achievement, popularity, fame, triumph, etc. Of course, all these qualities may not be in a single bundle for the single successful person. However, often a combination of two or more of these qualities are possessed by the successful person.
One thing that accounts for a person being a "victim of his own success" is the manner he goes about achieving success. Earlier, we mentioned hard work which is an addiction for some successful people. But being ego-driven and investing in the acquisition of knowledge and skills to be successful at the expense of and while neglecting making an investment in personal development, personal care, particularly in personal health, physical, emotional and spiritual, are also factors which promote victimization for successful people. Successful people may attend seminars and other kinds of training designed to create wealth which may include techniques for scheming and ripping-off people -- how to "out-fox" the fox, so to speak. But they may never so much as entertain the idea of investing in their own personal development, self-esteem, being in the flow, living with less stress and learning how to relax. Or, how to be their own best friend.
Over twenty-five years ago I wrote a poem which later became the lyrics for the song, "Take Care of Yourself." Of the more than one hundred poems and songs of mine that are posted on the internet, this song has attracted twice as many visitors as any of my other poems. Here are the lyrics:
Take care of yourself."
That is the most important thing
that you can do for yourself;
Be your own best friend.
Do not let the desires of your heart,
the dictates of others, or default,
deny you the good that is rightly yours.
Take care of yourself.
Be positive, follow your heart,
and enjoy life.
You are precious and the epitome of beauty.
Take care of yourself.
Nature desires above all else
that you may be in good health.
You rank with Angels,
Your body is the Temple of God
And your soul is Spirit that connects
you with Him eternally.
Earlier, I mentioned that my experience and observation afforded me the opportunity to meet people who were victims of their own success. Let me elaborate on and illustrate that point by focusing on successful people, including my colleagues, who were ministers. One might think that ministers have learned a few lessons about living a healthy life and being successful. These ministers were successful, prominent and highly esteemed nationally and internationally. Some of them had provided leadership for building cathedrals and had huge followings. They died at a young age, before they were fifty years old. They were hard workers, ego-driven and acclaimed winners. They were successful.
I have heard successful and want-to-be succesful ministers say, "If I die working for God that's all right." The inference was if working for God kills me, let me die. For some this meant over-working. Personally, I have not found any Biblical basis for this rationale. They neglected, not only themselves but their families, in the name or cause of doing God's work, hence being successful. They neglected their health and justified their behavior asserting "Jesus is my healer." This meant failing to visit a doctor except for an acute emergency. They lack having a health consciousness that would cause them to eat properly, take exercise and embrace a balanced spirituality. They failed to acknowledge the Scripture that says, "The length of our days is seventy years -- or eighty... (Psa, 90:10). While proclaiming "We are soldiers in the Army of the Lord," they became fatalities. They died young, younger than promised. One might ask, how much more could they have achieved for the sake of the Kingdom had they lived longer? Add to this casualty list persons who are chronically debilitated at a young age and a significant percentage of successful people are victims.
What has been said in this scenario about successful clergypersons apply equally to people in other profesisons and employment. To these things mentioned we can add over-medication and being heavily drugged, sometimes being over-dosed (OD) while still being hailed as successful, wealthy and famous. It is not uncommon for successful people to experience a personality shift and become arrogant and abusive to themselves and other people. A life is a terrible thing to lose in the pursuit or acquisition of success. It is also important to state that what has been said about victimization regarding successful people may also apply to people pursuing success, but who may or may not become successful no matter how hard they try.
My favorite philosophe/writer Henry David Thoreau speaks appropriately to the desperation that often afflicts successful people in this question and answer statement which doing the last thirty years I have recited, chanted or sung at least twice a week and daily some weeks:
Why should we be in such
desperate haste to succeed,
and in such
If a man does not keep pace
with his companions,
perhaps it is because
a different drummer.
Let him step to
the music which he hears
or far away.
You have likely heard someone say "It is not how long a person lives, it is what he achieves that matters.." My response to that is: "If he achieved "that" before his demise at thirty-five, maybe he could have achieved twice "that" had he lived to be seventy." And in a world that is in need of experienced producers and quality productivity that would have added exponentially to productivity and the consciousness of humankind. This does not take anything away from those who were killed at an early age while engaged "in the line of duty," including President John F. Kennedy at the age of 46, Martin Luther King, Jr., at the age of 39, and Jesus at the age of 30. They were killed by their enemies, not as a result of self-destructiveness. Included in this group are mostly young soldiers who died in the Iraq War and Afghanistan War. Jesus asked, "What does it profit a man if he should gain the whole world and lose his soul?" Or, lose his life too soon, because he did not learn early, before it was too late, how to live and not die prematurely?
The challenge and joy of living is to live each day not so much as if it is our last day, even though that may be, but rather that today is the only day we have. And to accept today as the eternal now which is inseparable from eternity. This brings to my mind an encounter an interviewer had with a successful man who at the age of fifty was one of the wealthiest individuals in the world. The interviewer noted the many achievements this wealthy tycoon had achieved and then asked him "What else did he want to achieve?:" This man of great success said: "I want to travel more than I have done in the past, spend a year on my yacht and go into outer space." The interviewer asked, "and what's next?" The man replied, "Then I will die and that will be it." The interviewer responded, "You have not envisioned far enough. You have not considered eternity." It is eternity where those who have been truly successful will receive the higher compensations that Apostle Paul describe in this manner:
No eye has seen,
no ear has heard
no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those who
(1st Cor. 2:9)
So whatever you do, whatever you envision, include the greatest success of all, eternal life, presence with the Creator forever and forever. The good news Is: when the eternal now is by consciousness possessed we are successful, victors, not victims.
Copyright 2012 by Uriah J. Fields