B.P. Singhal, IPS (Retd.)
MP (Rajya Sabha)

The greatest enigma about success is that, irrespective of the section, or strata of society, there are thousands of people who claim being very successful. Yet there is a virtual famine of role models in every field.

One thing, however, is clear. Everyone across the globe is thirsting for success.

Definition of Success : The simple definition of success is : 

“To ceaselessly go on fulfilling the purpose for which one was created.”

(This applies equally to man, all flora, fauna, all material elements and mother Nature).

What would sugar be worth if it stopped sweetening ? What would a bulb be worth if it stopped giving light ? What would be the value of a honey-bee if it stopped collecting honey, or a vulture, if it stopped doing its role of scavenging in Nature ? NOTHING. They will all be worthy of being thrown in to the dust-bin. In exactly the same way, if a human being does not fulfill the purpose for which he was created, he too will be worthy of being thrown in to the dust bin. Purposeless humans, or other living beings, can surely not be thrown in to the dustbins, but it is certain that they cannot be of any greater worth than the things lying in a dust-bin. 

Naturally then, to be successful is more crucial than life itself. After all, any thing can be of value only to the extent to which it is fulfilling its purpose. The fact is that the value of any thing or any being is directly proportional to the degree of success achieved in fulfilling its purpose. 

Knowing the purpose of life, therefore, is even more important than remaining alive.

Purpose of Human Life

The purpose of all Human life on this planet comprises three distinct categories :

I)                   The first category :

As deduced through scientific logic, the purpose of human life is identical for every single human being.  It comprises three things :

(a)        To achieve perfection, i.e., salvation of one’s soul or merging of one’s soul with the Supreme Being.

(b)        To voluntarily share the misery of all creation around himself.

(c)        To voluntarily squander happiness to all creation around himself.  (“Creation” includes fellow humans, all fauna, flora and even Mother Nature)

It is interesting to observe that this very threefold purpose is also set out in our scriptures  in just one sentence :-

Aatmano Mokshartham : Jagata Hitaya cha meaning :
“Salvation for the soul, (and) doing good to all creation.”

Exactly identical purpose has been stated by Prophet Mohammad in the Hadis while he was quoting the “Essence of Islam” :

Khaliq ki Ibadat; khalq Per Shafaqqat”, he had said. Meaning :
“Worshipping the Creator and compassion for all creation”.


To fulfill this purpose, all that is required is to take at least one step towards perfection, share at least one misery, become instrumental in bringing one happiness to someone in the course of each passing day. And this too, only to the extent of one’s capacity.


II)                 The second category :

In order to fulfill the above purpose of life, man has to stay alive and for this he has to take up any of the infinite number of avocations as a means of livelihood. It is here that we arrive at the second category of man’s purpose which comprises :

Ceaslessly fulfilling the objectives of the job that one has chosen as a ‘means’ of his livelihood”.


Tragedy struck man when he converted the ‘means’ into ‘end’ and the “end” into “means”.  Money is a ‘means’ of commerce; it has become an’end’ in itself for millions. Power or rank is a ‘means’ for serving fellow humans; it has become an ’end’ in itself.  This body was given as a “means” to fulfill the three-fold purpose of human life, but today we see people spending their whole life to provide all comforts and even luxuries to their bodies and their offsprings. The upkeep of the body itself has become an end in itself.


On the other hand, the “end”, i.e., achieving the Supreme Being or God, has been converted into a ‘means’.  For, do we not see millions of people offering prayers and even money at temples and other worship places asking God to grant them a son, victory in elections, cure from illnesses or simply our daily bread?  As though Lord God were the owner of a departmental store supplying bread to one, a seat in Parliament to another or a son to the issueless and so on….


Consequently, we humans are living our lives in the reverse. Mother Nature ordained that man should walk on his legs, but man seems hell bent upon walking on his head.  And then he goes about screaming that life is a bundle of miseries.  He does not even tarry to ponder that the word misery is not known to any of the millions of other living beings inhabiting this planet.  Impelled by Nature, they all continuously live in fulfillment of the purpose for which they were created and hence they are perennially contented and happy. Has anyone ever seen a cat or a mouse, a horse or a goat, indeed any animal of land, sea or air, brooding in misery? …. “Man” even coined a phrase “as happy as a skylark” but never cared to know how and why a skylark is so perpetually happy. 


It the present times, money, power and fame have become the yardsticks of success because of the above reversal in our concept of success. Not that these are not important. They are precious, but only as a means to motivete man for building a powerful nation in all respects. They become disastrous for the individual when one converts them into “Ends” or uses them as his yardsticks of success.


But, this is not all.

Unaware of the real definition of success, or may be because of the lack of discipline, sincerity, and dedication for achieving real success, men started devising their own concepts of success.  They not only began living accordingly, but also began propagating their respective brands of success to enhance their following so that their brand of success acquires legitimacy and prestige.


How many brands of success can be created in but a single profession would perhaps become clearer by taking a practical example.  Being a policeman myself, I shall discuss the kinds of brand that are available in the police.  Mutatis-mutandis every other field also ha s its own host of brands.


Having instilled the values of fearlessness, truth, impartiality and justice as Principal, Police Training College, a young Sub-Inspector accosted me about the wisdom of my training programme.  He said that he had acted exactly as he was trained to act and in the process arrested the brother of a local MLA. All hell broke loose thereafter. The Station Officer, his boss, almost lost his job.  Somehow, the SSP tided over the crisis. At the end of it, however, the Station officer called up this young sub-inspector and told him :  “If you want to be a really successful police officer, then better forget all that you have learnt at the P.T.C. and start doing what I tell you.”


It was this incident that caused me to look for the kinds of definitions of successes various police officers had devised. The following are some of the definitions that I discovered.  The list is by no means exhaustive :


1)      To get increasingly brilliant annual confidential reports in their career.

2)      To get appointed to increasingly important field postings.

3)      To do deeds of valour that can earn them countrywide fame.

4)      To consistently earn their promotions and ultimately reach the highest rank.

5)      To somehow pass through the career without having to compromise their values.

6)      To amass as much money and wealth by any and every means. 

7)      To earn the complete loyalty of the force in their command and the love and respect of the people they serve.

8)      To function in a manner that the people remember him for decades afterwards.

9)      To serve with self-respect and fulfil the legitimate needs of their children and family as perfectly as possible.

10)  To function in a manner where the good people feel reassured and the evil ones feel afraid of him.

11)  To use his power for personally obliging important VIPs, other highly influential persons and even heads of big industrial houses so that they could provide him with respectable/remunerative post-retirement jobs.

12)  To fulfill the expectations and aspirations of the people even if this requires violating the law.

13)  To work in the strict framework of law even if in doing so the crime situation goes out of control.

14)  To ensure that truth and justice is upheld at all cost and the security of the State and the law and order situation is kept in firm control. 


Inevitably, each of these brands of success shall generate its own unique brand of attitude towards one’s duties, and every variety of attitude will require its own unique brand of inputs.  Not only his motivations, his attitude, his efforts, his decisions, but his entire life will get moulded by the brand of success in which he believes.  The one who wants to get outstanding remarks will have to keep his immediate boss well pleased no matter what may be his demands.  The one who is scared of a mid term transfer shall need to keep the important politicians well pleased and fulfill all their wishes.  The person who is interested in money shall evince interest only in cases which have potential for money and so on….  It is to be noted that what would be nectar for one brand of success, would be poison for another, and vice-versa.  The significant part is that irrespective of the brand, each brand holder would be sincerely considering himself a hugely successful police officer and will be ever ready to share his own “Key of success” with all others. 


The question is, “How to make out which is really the true brand”.  For arriving at the answer, all that one needs to do is to work out the objectives for which the police department was created.  And this will show us that it is only the last brand (number 14) that fulfills that objective.  Achieving that brand of success alone will be true success.


On this reckoning the success of a hotel will lie in the quality of food that is served and not on its balance sheet; in the quality of hygiene maintained, and in ensuring that those who cook and serve the food are at total peace with themselves and do their jobs with love and care : the kind of feelings a mother has while cooking and feeding her children. It may sound astonishing but all the aforementioned factors have a profound impact on the body and mind of the customer who eats at that hotel. An industrialist’s success shall lie in the excellence of goods he is manufacturing.  The success of a doctor shall lie in the love and care and the thoroughness with which he treats his patients, etc. etc…. The person who wants to be truly successful will have to first think and precisely define the objectives for which his job was created and then work out all the factors that would contribute in fulfilling that objective to perfection. It may sound strange, but, by making the wealth created, power acquired or the fame earned, as his indices of success, ‘man’ has really hurt himself the most. These indices of success will inevitably deprive him of internal peace, tranquility, serenity and the thrill in every living moment that was his birthright as a human being. Is it any wonder that the larger the number of these so called “worldly successful” people, greater is the requirement of tranquilisers  and pain relievers in the world.


Achievements are not success:

As though the quest for wealth, power or fame in the modern world were not enough to confuse the concept of true success, the Western concept of “Management by objectives” only confounded it further. 

It may sound strange, but the truth is that achievements are not success. Achievements are a mere by-product of success and are best forgotten as they keep coming.  There is no harm in planning short term or long-term objectives while one is ceaselessly fulfilling the objectives of his job.  But achievements, however spectacular, cannot be allowed to distract anyone from the concept of true success.  After all, so long as one lives, each day has to be filled with the efforts needed to fulfill the overall objective of his job. Accordingly, a follower of true success has to succeed every day by putting in his finest efforts. Success to him is a never-ending daily phenomenon.  It cannot be allowed to be halted at the advent of an achievement.


III)              The Third category of Success:

Man is not alone.  He is a social being also.  He is therefore multi-functional.  He is a son, a brother, a husband, a father, a friend, etc. etc.  Each one of these roles casts specific responsibilities that have to be discharged as objectives of that particular role.  A question arises :  “How is one to identify the totality of responsibilities for each of such roles?”  To know those responsibilities, the simple exercise that needs to be done is to put oneself in the shoes of the other and work out what he would expect the other to do unto himself.  This exercise helps profoundly in identifying the true objectives that he needs to pursue to fulfill all the respective responsibilities.  Once again, it will be the ceasless effort to fulfill the respective objectives of those roles that shall signify true success. 


True success knows no end.  It is one continuous process that has to be sustained till one’s last breath.  Such a person alone can become a true role model.  It is such a person who will experience continuous thrill in living.  He will perennially be at peace with himself and consequently with the world around him.  What is more, such a person shall never remain in any kind of want, because, by fulfilling the objectives of his life as well as his job, he triggers a law of Nature by which Nature itself ensures that all his material, intellectual, emotional and spiritual wants are met effortlessly.   Life then becomes one continuous thrill for him. 


Little wonder, therefore, that success has been rated as being more precious than life itself.

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Last modified: January 20, 2004