archive
What Is Success?
      by Gail Carr Feldman, PhD
What is success? Someone has said that a person is a success "who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much; whose life is an inspiration, whose memory is a benediction."
Given that definition, why would I choose to discuss the Biblical Job as an example of success? At first recall, the story of Job is one we don't willingly wish to revisit. After all, it's about the richest man in the east losing everything he owns. Property is one thing, but this man's ten children are wiped out as well. Worse, it's about his whining and complaining (the Prologue is titled, "Job's Complaint to God.") in response to his loss. And even worse than that, just because his wife gets real angry in her grief and tells her husband to drop dead, she's dropped from the story and we never hear of her again! So this column is a tribute to Job's wife, who I think models a certain kind of success for women.
I believe that the story of Job (and Job's wife) is a profound teaching about coping skills and the rewards that accrue to those who cope well. Every aspect of life, personal, social, and business, contains the ups and downs, increases and losses, that call on our ability to handle stress. The built-in mechanism we humans have to metabolize stress and to reach higher levels of wisdom and creativity is grief.  I've learned, after all these years, that my mother's version of swearing, "Good Grief!", was absolutely right. It's not only good, but imperative, that we register every reversal of fortune and honor, every drowned disappointment with grieving feelings (remember, our tears contain stress hormones). The more we attune to feelings, the faster they resolve. In this way, our grief doesn't become a grievance.

"A person is a success who has lived well,   laughed often, and loved much..."


The first grieving feeling available to us is actually the protective defense we call "denial." When Job said, "The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord," he entered this first stage of grief. We know this because the rest of the story is about the other reactions Job discovered: strong anger, relentless obsession about the unfairness of his loss, and the depression that wiped out his immune system. Job's wife, like most women, didn't sit with denial, but quickly tuned to anger before Job did. I'd like to think that she moved through her grief, as resilient women do, and reached new levels of self-acceptance, self-renewal and personal power long before her husband did. To reinforce that belief, let's call her Sophia, the name of Wisdom and the feminine God-Force.
With Wisdom, we can successfully overcome every seeming setback. The story of Job (and Job's wife) tells us that as we respect all our feelings, anger and rage included, we learn to accept the creative cycles of loss and regeneration, and we achieve understanding and great abundance. Sophia is referred to in the Wisdom literature as "the breath of the power of God," and "breath" means "inspiration."  So:
   1.
Speak your grief and help others express theirs. 
   2. Know that as you process anger, obsession and depression, you are
      moving beyond false beliefs in failure in order to reach powerful possibilities.
   3. Nurture every vision of success.
Studies of successful professional women confirm that they, like Sophia or Job's wife, use "creative aggression" in furthering their aims. "Creative aggression" means speaking out, taking a stand, defending opinions, formulating goals and taking the steps to achieve those goals. Being successful, then, means being yourself (even if that means being angry), speaking from the heart, and finding Wisdom to help your self and others understand and enjoy the wild and wonderful ways of the world. Using the feminine force of God means powerful self-expression, and this self-expression spells "Success."