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Time to Reflect on “Success” and “Failure”

What is success? Is it beating down a corporate opponent or outshining another human being in the game of life? Is it to become a CEO of a mega corporation that makes huge amounts of money, yet devastates our environment? Is it being the head of a company like Boeing or Lockheed and others like them who make killing machines that destroy villages in other countries,  killing men, women, children who have done us no evil?

Or is success the small farmer who feeds his family and many others from his production, even though he may hardly be able to make his mortgage payments? Or is it the writer or movie producer that makes a block-buster success in money terms, showcasing a shrewd crime or offering lots of killing? Or is it a writer or moviemaker with a worthwhile story, who may hardly recover their costs, because they do not have a block-buster budget to promote their creation, though they have made a great addition to the literary bank for all-time?

In life what is more important — a person’s success or their failures? Their failures often lead to their greatest success. Their failure may have been a bump that redirected them to a much more worthwhile activity

Looking back at my own life, my earliest ambition was to be a great rich writer, but I redirected my efforts to getting rich as a stockbroker on the advice of a rich uncle. He said, if you want to make money you go where the money is. I became what most people would have described as highly successful. From a one-man brokerage firm I grew to three offices with 40 brokers. I made big money, much more than I ever dreamed I could.

And by overexpansion or growing too fast (my fault), plus a couple of brokers who disobeyed the rules by dealing with clients outside of Washington State I “failed.”  That gave the SEC the opportunity to come in and say you are operating without a SEC license and put me out of business. I lost everything.

Then gathering up my energy and determination that was about all I had left, I set out to fulfill my earlier ambition to be a writer. Since then I have completed three novels, and am working on a fourth one. I have 1400 poems in the computer with many of them published, plus many published essays. No bestsellers, but some pretty good writing that has been added to the literary bank. Yet I deem this a far greater success than stacking up a great fortune as a stockbroker if I had continued on that trail.

No, I believe the greatest successes of this world are often those who go about their lives, not necessarily out-doing their fellow citizens or building up a great stack of wealth, but those who spend their days doing the most good for others. They may be a small businessman serving their local community, or a teacher providing inspiration to young folks, or a hard-working father providing his family with life’s necessities and with love.

When evening calls, we all leave this world with nothing, but how we have lived our lives and how we stand in the hearts of others. So what is success and what is failure? Both success and failure can be stepping stones to broaden our knowledge to make us better people.

J.Glenn Evans is part Cherokee, and he  started out on a small farm in the Dust Bowl. He has also worked in a lumber mill, operated a mining company and the stockbroker he writes about. He currently hosts Poets West at KSER 90.7. 

My grandfather spoke          

When I was young my grandfather spoke

Told me things I did not understand

We sat cross-legged and faced each other

Under a blackjack oak tree out in the field

Day was warm and sunny under blue sky

Red bird in the tree chirped its song

Grasshoppers and butterflies flew about


As we sat there my grandfather said to me

My son I am old, I will not be long

The earth cries for our wisdom

Most of the bear are now no more

No Buffalo roam free

Fox and Wolf have no place to go

These things were many when I was young


My grandfathers were unwise men

They welcomed invaders as friends and gods

When they came to know this was foolish

They fought and argued among themselves

The enemy grew stronger and we grew weaker

Many died from white man’s sickness


Now too late to fight we are beaten

We are few and they are many

Bear and Buffalo are gone

Fox and Wolf have no place to go

I hear the earth cry for our wisdom


Time will come when only the foolish rule

And their foolish ways destroy

Away from their foolish ways that destroy

And Bear and Wolf have no place to go

I hear the earth cry for our wisdom


You must learn to lead these people my son

Love and protect this place that is our home

Room for Bear and Wolf and all people

I hear the earth cry for our wisdom


Years have passed since my grandfather spoke

I know what he was trying to tell me

They cannot her my grandfather’s voice

I hear the earth cry for our wisdom

  1. Glenn Evans

Publication Credits:  All Night Diner, 18Oct 05; Buffalo Tracks,
SCW Publications, 2003


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