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Herb Opalek: The price of success

Henry Kissinger was correct when he wrote in the Wilson Library Bulletin "that each success only buys an admission ticket to a more difficult problem."

When discussing the price of success, it is first necessary to come to terms with our own personal definitions of success. Indeed, each individual's own definition of success will be influenced by several key factors.

Success is subject to individual interpretation based on upbringing, past experiences, role models, personal motivations and goals; and even adherence to Scripture.

For some, success might be to enter public service and become famous, while for others it might be to acquire great wealth.

Our individual views of success will change at various times throughout our lives. For example, what might be deemed successful in college or on one's first job is very different from successfully raising a family or comfortably retiring at age 65.

When we achieve success, it is sometimes measurable and sometimes not.

Amassing property is one measure of success, but a successful marriage may be far more meaningful to many people and can only be measured by how the two partners feel about each other as the years go by.

Very few people achieve success accidentally. Most people who achieve success first defined it then planned for it. They set a goal to achieve it.

Vince Lombardi, the Hall of Fame NFL football coach, sums up the rewards of succeeding in this way: "The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand."

The opposite of the price of success is, of course, the cost of failure.

The cost of failure is always higher than the price for success. The cost of failure in a relationship, job, career, or any area can cause a great deal of disruption and chaos in our lives.

Sooner or later in our lives, each of us must choose to pay the price of success or the cost of failure.

Yet, sooner or later, we are all going to fail at something.

If you never fail you are playing it far too safe for this lifetime. If you live on life's edge, I guarantee that from time to time you will take a misstep or stumble.

If you compare the ultimate cost of failure with the price that is required for success there is only one obvious conclusion and that is that no matter what the price of success; it is always less than the cost of failure.

These thoughts are reflective of the time of year we are at in the Jewish calendar.

These are the "Days of Awe," the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

It is a solemn time of reflection on both the past and the future. We audit the past year's personal activities; take corrective action and budget toward the coming New Year's success in personal moral and ethical achievement.

These were also important days for the nascent Christian church.

In ancient Israel, a trumpet or shofar (ram's horn) was blown for two major purposes: to announce an important assembly of the people; to sound a fanfare or an alarm, so as to muster troops.

The Christians saw this day, Rosh Hashanah, when the shofar was blown, as symbolically referring to Jesus in the eschatological future when the trumpets will announce His final return.

So, once a year during this 10 days they encouraged each other to take stock of their lives and correct any deficiencies in their moral and ethical being.

Whether Jew, Christian, or Moslem, this is a great time for personal introspection.

The political season places many choices in front of us and the economy has sent many of us reeling. Our choices in the immediate future will determine our collective economic and political fates for many a year.

We must be cautious and wary in exercising our vote and determining our future.

What is the price of our collective success and can we afford the cost of failure?

I would suggest that each of us owes it to ourselves and our families to think hard and long before we pull the ballot lever.

We are in the worst situation this country has faced since the Great Depression that impacted our country from 1929, when the stock market crashed, through 1939, when the Second World War led to a regeneration of the U.S. economy.

Scripture tells us that each of us has personal choice and we must choose wisely. How will we choose, and will we be successful?

A great philosopher, teaches that "we can let the circumstances of our lives harden us so that we become increasingly resentful and afraid, or we can let them soften us, and make us kinder. We always have the choice."

I suggest that we take time out to reflect and carefully choose lest we reap the winds of failure rather than the fruits of success.

Herbert A. Opalek is CEO of the Merced County Rescue Mission. He writes his column every other Saturday.