Key Thoughts


Rob Vajko

Success is Counted Sweetest

“Nothing is impossible if you want it hard enough and work hard enough!”

You, like me, have probably been told something similar at some point in your life. Maybe you heard it over and over growing up. You might even have told your children something to that effect.

I wonder, however, whether this sentiment is doing more harm than good.

A line in a movie I was watching recently got me thinking. A father in his 70s told his son: “A man’s dreams get smaller with time.”

That statement struck me as profound and significant, so I wrote it down. Do our dreams get smaller as we get older? If so, is it because we learn to settle for less or because we become more realistic? Do we, in fact, begin to understand that there are limitations that can keep us from achieving our dreams?

We’ve all seen those movies where the hero overcomes tremendous adversity to achieve what everyone told him or her was impossible. They are inspiring and we all love to watch them, but I wonder if the takeaway isn’t misleading. For every story like this, how many others are there where the hero tried and failed? How many crushed spirits? We don’t make that type of movie. 

I watch the TV series “The Voice” and contestant after contestant says something along the lines of, “There is no plan B! If this doesn’t work out, I’ve got nothing to fall back on.” I also watch as one by one, all those contestants with no plan B fail to make the cut. What now for them? The odds aren’t in their favor. Even many of the winners fail to build a career in music.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t encourage people to pursue their dreams—we absolutely should. My concern is when that person can’t conceive of a life without the particular success he or she is striving for.

What happens to all those who fail to cross the finish line at the Olympics after giving it their all? What happens to those who go bankrupt trying to get that startup off the ground? What happens when you don’t get the dream you have given everything to pursue?

The simple truth is that there are limitations; there are things that we simply cannot do. Many of us will never attain our dream but we do find out, as so many contestants on “The Voice” doubtlessly discovered, that things are OK if you can simply celebrate the life and the friendships that you have. Play the hand you’ve been dealt and you’ll find that it’s more than enough; those of us who have failed to achieve our dreams don’t have a “lesser” life.

Like the hero in the movie, I have realized that as we get older, our dreams get smaller, but not because we have to settle for something lesser. I believe they get smaller because we have, slowly along the way, discarded many of the false beliefs we had about what would make us happy or make us feel like a success. Now we find happiness in family, in friends, in a glass of wine or a beautiful sunset. We take pleasure in a good meal or a good book.

Emily Dickinson summed it up beautifully:

Success is counted sweetest

By those who ne’er succeed.

The following lines tell why:

To comprehend a nectar

Requires sorest need.

I still have dreams and I hope you do as well. But if I don’t achieve those dreams, I still consider myself blessed and fortunate for being able to pursue them.

Rob Vajko lives in Purdy.