Secrets of Success Can Take Many Forms

By Fisher, Eric | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), May 19, 1997 | Go to article overview
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Secrets of Success Can Take Many Forms


Fisher, Eric, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Go to your local bookstore and the shelves are packed with how-to books on acheiving personal and professional success. Yet they're often written by people who are undoubtedly successful but still unknown among the general public. An even worse situation is a success manual that is written by a well-known person but is so littered with empty, self-serving anecdotes that it's useless.

So the question remains: How do the famous truly define success, and what do they do to achieve it? Of course, fame and success are two different things, but it would be interesting to see where America's leading politicians, entertainers, athletes and businessmen draw the line between failure and success.

Along comes Celebrating Success: Inspiring Personal Letters on the Meaning of Success (Health Communications, 172 pages, $12.95). Gerard Smith, the executive director of the Institute for Successful Living, wrote dozens of letters to America's influential, looking for answers to the question "How do you define success?"

Predictably enough, the answers to the question rarely vary, always citing hard work, a defined set of goals, self-awareness and patience. But rather than simply run quotation after quotation, Mr. Smith printed a direct copy of each letter he received, with each respondent commenting on his or her own stationery.

With such a format, the differences in personal expression are striking. Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening wrote a neatly typed note on official state stationery that reads like a well-rehearsed campaign speech. Conversely, actor Walter Matthau sent back a haggard-looking photo of himself with "Success is drinking a lot of water every day" scrawled in ink.

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