The True Measure of Success

Elizabeth - Hart, Michigan
Entered on October 3, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30

“Just do your best – that’s what the farmer said when he let the bull out to pasture with the cows.”

My grandpa said this as he applied a thick coat of barn red to the side of the shed. I smiled at the funny, if somewhat unrefined way of telling me that it was okay if I had gotten a little bit of red paint on the white trim. My grandfather is one of the people who have taught me the value of doing my best. He is one of the people who have taught me that this, the striving to do one’s best, is what determines success. A person’s success is not measured by the size of their paycheck, but rather by their ability to accomplish something through hard work and giving their best effort.

Perhaps one of the best examples that I can give of this measure of success is my father, who has demonstrated this most effectively through his life’s work: farming.

When it comes to occupations, our society tends to measure success in many ways. A successful man will probably have a lot of zeroes at the end of his paycheck. My father never has and probably never will. A successful man will have paid vacations and sick days. My father has neither. A successful man will usually work a five day week and an eight hour day. My father works a seven day week and a 16 hour day, 365 days a year. A successful man wears a suit and tie to work. My father wears jeans and a work shirt that are often covered in dirt and smears of grease and manure.

I guess, according to society’s standards, maybe my father isn’t doing as well as he could. But, in my eyes, they don’t come much more successful than him. My father’s dream when he was a kid was to own his own dairy farm. He now has one. When he bought his farm, it had four buildings. Today it has nine buildings, five corncribs and a silo. He has 71 cows, heifers, steers and calves. He has been married for almost twenty-two years and has raised three children. He helps out his neighbors when they need it and has worked hard every day of his life.

Now, as I walk with him through the rows of the corn field, and he shows me his “pet” corn (the tallest stalks), I can only pray that I will someday be as successful as he is.

When I painted that shed with my grandfather, it was the first time that I had ever painted anything. Since then, many buildings and various pieces of farm equipment have become acquainted with my paintbrush. There have been many times when the paint has dripped or my paint-soaked brush has left a mark somewhere where it wasn’t supposed to be. Sometimes I look at these paint jobs and sigh over their little imperfections. But then I move on, because I know that I can only work hard and strive to do my best. This is the true measure of success.