To many, the image of a successful person is someone who has it all: fame, fortune, authority.
"When I think of successful people, I think of well-known and wealthy people initially, like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg," says Tyler Bowles, who is entering his senior year at Syracuse High.
Success is often seen as some far-off goal, something to brag about at high school reunions and other social gatherings. It's something that guarantees that your life will be smooth sailing, something that proves that you're a worthwhile person.
However, in many cases, what one person deems success, another might call failure. What is it that determines whether or not a person is successful? Moreover, how are we to judge the success of a person's life? When it comes down to it, everything depends on the criteria being evaluated: what that individual person wants out of life.
"I think success is being the person that you want to be," says Jessica Ward, who will be a senior at Syracuse High this fall.
Bryan Andrews, who recently graduated from Northridge High, agrees: "Someone who is successful is a person who has fulfilled a goal for themselves in where they want to be, whether it's a job or a relationship or a home."
For some, the answer to what constitutes success really is money, fame or power, if not some combination of the three. Many teenagers dream of seeing their name in shining lights, or their picture on the front of a magazine. They imagine living a life of luxury and owning their own private jet, or becoming the president of the United States or else maybe a highly esteemed businessman.
For others, success isn't quite as clear and simple. According to Harley Moore, who will be a senior at Northridge High this fall, "what makes a person successful is when a person sets goals to achieve in their life and does whatever is necessary to get there and not give up on their dreams."
Brett Loertscher, a senior at Clearfield High this fall, perceives success in his life as "finishing high school and IB (International Baccalaureate) alive. After that, it's going to college, getting a good job that I enjoy, and having a family. But most simply, my success will be happiness for myself and my family, and continuing to learn and become a better person."
Under these definitions, success could have a very different appearance than simply money and prestige. Someone who the world might deem to be an utter failure could be perfectly happy, having spent their life working toward their goals and doing what they love -- "someone who has what they need and is happy with that," in the words of Grant Alvey, who will be a senior at Northridge High.
Bowles agrees: "To me, success is the measure of happiness in a person's life."
No matter how success is defined, there seems to be a consensus on the measures to take in order to achieve it: hard work.
"College and internships," says Christal Hazelton, a senior-to-be at Clearfield. College opens up opportunities, and increased opportunities mean more paths that could lead to success.
"Success takes work," says Loertscher. "It takes a lot of effort to be successful. Passively waiting for good things to come to you will never work; you have to be actively working towards your goals. Sometimes luck will strike the rare soul, but for the rest of the world, it takes a bit more sweat."
Making an effort
Whatever it is that you want out of life, it's unlikely that you'll get it by sitting and waiting for it to happen. According to "Outliers: The Story of Success" by Malcolm Gladwell, it takes approximately 10,000 hours of practice to master any given thing, from computer programming to playing a musical instrument. In order to excel at what you do and progress toward achieving your dreams, you have to invest a lot of time and effort.
Though many people are successful without becoming a "master," the "10,000-Hour Rule," as Gladwell calls it, gives evidence for the necessity of dedication.
Each person has the capability of being successful, even if the rest of the world has a different interpretation of the word. It all comes down to what matters to you. How do you envision the rest of your life? What would make you the happiest?
As long as you work hard to make it happen, you will rank among people like Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey as being a success.
Kalli Damschen will be a senior this fall at Clearfield High School. She is passionate about reading, writing and her Christian faith. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.