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Claude Monet: Bordighera (1884)

"Most Success is more modest than it appears."

I blush when I think of saying, "Modest Success." It seems as if I'm promoting underperforming, for everyone knows that Success was supposed to be more unconditional, as if the universe were surrendering to someone's dominion, as if the usual rules of engagement were suspended for a moment.

This idea that Success doesn't seek limits seems deeply ingrained in me, and it’s not that healthy of a perspective.
It seems that an attitude like that might well serve to limit my Successes by inflating the challenges I must meet in order to qualify. It's one thing to win a race and quite another to dominate a tournament. In the real world, it seems possible to Succeed and remain almost invisible. In Fantasyland, one aspires to become the center of attention.

I sense that I was not properly conditioned as a child to grow up to become Successful. No, nothing about this subject was ever mentioned, for we were not an upwardly mobile family. After their childhoods in The Great Depression, my parents were more keep-the-lid-on types, never ones to aspire to ever become much bigger than their britches. Looking back, I see that their aspirations would certainly qualify as Modest compared to the ones typically touted today as worthy objectives. They never sought to become rich and famous, and even the comforts they eventually earned were eroded by ill health in their later years.
Nevertheless, their’s was a Modest if enviable Success. They managed to pay off their mortgage rather than leverage the old home place into some four-car garage palace. They didn't die rich or famous.

I stumbled upon a list of the world's wealthiest actors and found that I had heard of only about half of them. The poorest of the lot was said to be worth tens of millions and had accumulated that wealth without me ever having heard of them. But then, I do not read the trades and make it a point of seeing a movie no more often than every few years or so. I'm far behind the curve of whatever's current, and mostly grateful that I do not have to maintain knowledge of all the people famous for being famous, Successful for being Successful, noteworthy, apparently, for what they accumulated rather than from what they ever did. That's quite a vitae, but not one I seek to share.

The older and more experienced I become, the more I feel attracted to Modest outcomes. I take real pride in my small accomplishments, mindfully done. I do not very often aspire to experience anything beyond my current station. I'd go to France or Italy again in a New York Second, but to visit small, out-of-the-way places not mentioned in tour guidebooks. When visiting again, I hope to stumble into ordinary places that will seem extraordinary simply because they have not become noteworthy yet. I've noticed that noteworthy tends to ruin a place. There's a more Modest place near Dijon that's not so rich or famous but seemingly more Successfully real than its more famous neighbor. Nobody grows much mustard there anymore, anyway. It's cheaper to import product grown in Canada, process it locally, then sell it to tourists seeking a brush with greatness. Most Success is more modest than it appears.

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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