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What this highest idea is will vary from individual to individual, and will expand with growth. No outsider can dictate another's private definition of success. It may, it often does, include some recognition from one's fellows, and greater financial rewards; on the other hand, it may not. Many a researcher in the sciences would consider himself fully successful (and would be right), if he added one minute fact to the mass of accumulating details on which science must proceed, if he took one item out of the realm of hypothesis and speculation and placed it in its proper relation to the mass of known truths. His name might never be known by those outside his science; it might be quite obscure even within his own field. He would nevertheless have attained the goal for which he was working if he accomplished that which he himself set out to do.
The actress who reaches the top of her art is as successful as the mother who raises a large and healthy family - but not more so. A priest or minister immersed in the care of his parish lives as successful a life as the genius whose name is known by most of his contemporaries. Another's ideal of success may have so little in common with our own that we are quite blind as to what he can see in the career he has chosen, but unless we are totally unimaginative we know, when we see him living responsibly, effectively, usefully, happily, making the most of his advantages and gifts, that we are dealing with a successful man.
To offer too circumscribed a definition of success would defeat the purpose of this book. Much of our distrust of the word, as it is, comes from not realizing the infinitely extensive range of possible "successes." Each of us, usually by late adolescence, has a mass of knowledge about himself, which - if we took the counsel "Know thyself" seriously - could be examined and considered until the individual's ideal of the good life would emerge from it plainly. It ought to be part of education to see that each child should understand the necessity of finding this clue to his future, and be shown that it is sometimes thrown into confusion by hero-worship, or by the erroneous notion that what is an item in the success of one must be present in the success of each of us. Still, in spite of confusion, false starts, the taking over of the ambitions of a parent or teacher for ourselves instead of finding our own, most of us do arrive in the early twenties knowing what we are best fitted to do, or could do best if we had the training and opportunity.