Changing How We Think of Success

By now, we’ve all heard about the big college application fraud scandal and read plenty of commentary on it. I can’t get it out of my head. Here’s the thing – I cannot wrap my head around how any parent could waste that much energy caring which school their children go to. And yes, these families were part of an uber elite who live by a different set of standards than most of us, still I think it is emblematic of a march larger problem in our society, a deep sickness that we have to address.

We need to change our definition of success

We live in a society that has an addiction with success. Somehow, millions of people seem to have gotten swept up in this overwhelming movement that is only looking at one end: money. Who has it, who doesn’t, how can we get more. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that this is a losing game. By it’s very nature, this system sets up extreme scarcity and competition.

I’ve met plenty of “successful” people (if we define this by clawing to the top and making lots of money) who are incredibly unsuccessful human beings. They are anxious, lonely, sad and confused how to get out of this spiral.  When we focus solely on how to make more money, our kids lose out on the some of the most important lessons in life – how to be human.

Creating a parenting mission

This takes me to what I call my Parenting Mission. It is a mantra I repeat to myself many times a week when I’m struggling to figure out the right parenting choices for my children. It goes like this: Independent, Resilient, and Kind. Independent, Resilient, and Kind. Independent, Resilient, and Kind. I repeat it to myself over and over again.

It begins with the little things in the day to day: When one child begins to panic because she forgot to do her homework last night. When the other child insists that I get the cereal out of the cabinet for him.

It would be so much easier to just help her do her homework quickly and then send her with a tardy excuse note. It would be so much quieter (and less messy!) to pour the cereal. But these little behaviors will not teach them to be independent. And it certainly won’t teach them resilience. I deeply believe that resilience is a muscle that takes a lot of work to strengthen over time. With each one of these tiny little battles my kids face while they’re still little, their resilience muscles are slowly getting stronger.

If I wait until they’re bigger, when the stakes are so much higher, I’m not sure they’d have the strength to face it. And the stakes are getting higher. How much do we have to learn about depression and anxiety disorders on the rise among our teenagers? Is there anything more terrifying than the suicide epidemic sweeping our country?

You have to be able to get up and keep going anyway.

I feel so blessed to have learned these lessons from the incredible women in my life – my mother and my grandmother. My mom grew up in a house where resilience wasn’t a choice. The oldest of five kids in a home that barely made ends meet, no one was talking about “which school” you could get into. It was a big deal when the fifth sibling was the first to graduate from a four-year university. When they were old enough, all the kids worked because that’s how they kept the house going. All throughout, my incredible grandmother kept her powerful loving spirit, which I believe was her unintentional way of showing her children that they could be successful humans.

And I was lucky enough to grow up in a home with privilege in beautiful neighborhoods, with no question about whether I would go to a university one day. But Mom was still determined to teach me some of her most important life lessons, which can be pretty much boiled down to this: “You have to do it anyway.”

There was no laying around because you didn’t feel up to it. There was only, “Get up and get going.” She never expected me to like it or to do it with a smile. But get up and keep going anyway. It’s the greatest gift she gave me and I’ll keep doing my best to pass it along to my kids now who are growing up with even more privilege than I had.

Get up and get going

“I’m sorry you forgot your homework. I’m sure you’ll remember next time. Time to go to school.” And then, always, “I love you.”

For me, telling my kids that they have to do it anyway is the same as saying “I love you.” But I add it in for good measure. I want to make sure they know that. One day in the future, when they become whoever they are meant to be, and they have gone to whatever school happened to work for them, I hope they will remember, “I can – and will – get up and keep on going.”

Get up. Keep going. Life will try to knock you down and then you get up and do it again. Independent, Resilient, and Kind.

Independent. Resilient. Kind.




Ordinary Days, Meaningful Life is a labor of love geared toward working moms ready to embrace the chaos and find meaning in it. If you found this post meaningful, please share it with someone you think would enjoy it too! I’d love to stay in touch with you! Leave a comment below, contact me, or sign up for the mailing list. I can’t wait to hear from you!

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