The subject(ive) success

What is success? We engaged in a short debate around this topic over lunch today.  This was done against the backdrop of Chandrayaan 2, India’s lunar mission, where there was loss of communication with the lander, Vikram at the last moment, when the science enthusiasts and patriots across the country waited with bated breath during the wee hours today. (The Prime Minister of India flew out to Bengaluru to witness the event, straight from the control room of ISRO along with its scientists.)


Courtesy: Google images

The social media was a veritable whirlpool of messages, with many expressing solidarity over the fact that the mission as such was not a failure as the orbiter will continue to orbit the moon and do its job. This message particularly from a NSF scientist struck a chord with millions of netizens:

“If Vikram failed to land – which it looks like – REMEMBER the ORBITER is where 95% of the experiments are. The Orbiter is safely in Lunar orbit and performing its mission. This is not a total failure. Not at all.”

Of course, there was a cross-section of netizens who mocked, calling the mission a failure, with tongue-in-cheek comments!

Coming back to the moot topic of discussion, my answer would be: success is about  having vision and passionately working to one’s capacity in the given constraints. Capacity could mean one’s intelligence; ability; perseverance; enthusiastic devotion; dedication; determination and so on. Constraints could mean the limiting variables/factors that are not directly related to one’s work, but incidental to accomplishing the work at hand, and these include intrapersonal (oneself/self-concept); interpersonal (people/self-esteem); climate (organisational/political/economic/geographic); health; the unknowns and so on. That said, success is an intangible term/aspect and thus difficult to measure! Ohh, yes, success turns out to be personal, subjective, and relative too.  For a toddler, the first steps and the first bits of speech are success while for a nonagenarian, to hear and being heard are success. Failure is just the opposite: to NOT have vision and to NOT work passionately to one’s capacity in the given constraints. So, whenever one takes the liberty to label somebody or something a failure, it’s best to sagaciously look into the two Cs (mentioned above) and accordingly decide. By the way, to label as such also depends on one’s self-concept and self-esteem levels – the upbringing and the environment one is a part of have a role to play.

Nevertheless, the hallmark of excellence is to continue to move on despite all odds. And, the reaction during odds stands testimony to one’s character! Here’s an evergreen quote: “When the going gets tough, the tough gets going.” Another one is, by the philosopher Confucius: “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

May we do our best. Let’s chase the missions and battles in life with elan!


Rukma Vasudev

PS: Do feel free to leave your thoughts on the subject. 🙂