thOUQHD74RI’d just graduated from college and, being pragmatic, understood that becoming a Nobel Prize-winning author, legendary rock star, and Oscar-winning actor might take a few years, so I acquired a day job installing electronic security devices in retail stores. But I had almost no idea what I was doing, so in a way I’d already accomplished one of my goals: I was making a living as an actor.

It was a slo-mo summer day at a women’s boutique in Santa Monica, California, and the 60-something manager had nothing better to do than chat me up while I stripped wires and prayed nothing would catch fire. Mid-chat, however, she spotted a man on the Promenade and said, “I know him!” She hurried out the door.

Half an hour later she rushed back in, bursting to tell me about her encounter. She did know him: “We went to high school together, but I haven’t seen him in almost 50 years! I teased him, ‘How can you just sit around? Are you independently wealthy or something?’ And he said, ‘Yes.’ And he wasn’t joking! So, I said, ‘Really? How?’ And he said, ‘I invented the parking meter.’”

Whoa! Now she had my attention. It turns out…

The summer after Smart Guy and his buddy graduated from high school, they were “looking around” when they noticed a parking cop ticketing a car. Minutes later they spotted a wind-up alarm clock in a five-and-dime window. “Hey!” they said in unison, “what if we put one of those in front of every parking space?” So they pooled their resources and bought the alarm clock, then took it home, tore it apart, and figured out how to set it off with a coin drop. By the time they were in their 20s, their patented meter had made them both independently wealthy.

It took me a long time to process the information, but I slowly began to understand that success is not a matter of “designing our fate,” as if we lived in a one-person vacuum. Nor is it a matter of passively “waiting for luck;” the only thing I ever caught while napping was flies. It’s a matter of “looking around,” of being ready to use what we’re given. Not everyone is an entrepreneur, some are intrepeneurs, making small but significant in-house improvements–like the matchbox factory worker who figured out how to save his company thousands of dollars a year, by putting the striker on only one side of the box instead of two (true story).

But the greatest successes are human ones. Mother Teresa saved thousands of lives by figuring out how to feed India’s untouchables. Ancient Israel’s King Hezekiah “accidentally” rediscovered the teachings of Moses, and by reinstating them saved his nation from political and moral collapse. His secret to success? “In everything he undertook,” 1 Chronicles 31:20-21 tells us, “he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered.”

Look around.

About mitchteemley

Writer, Filmmaker, Humorist, Thinker-about-stuffer
This entry was posted in For Pastors and Teachers, Humor, Memoir, Quips and Quotes, Religion/Faith and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to Success

  1. My motto for the past 49 years has been, “Who knows but that you were brought to the ____ for such a time as this?”. Reminding myself of this is what got me into things I would not have ordinarily done, and has enriched life.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Aakash says:

    “It’s matter of “looking around,” of being ready to use what we’re given.”
    Truer words haven’t been spoken, love the post!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Brilliant story! You are a masterful storyteller Mitch. So many life lessons in one post. Personally, I am fascinated by how we measure success. And how frequently it is determined by just 1 factor. (Too often external in nature.) Which is nuts when you think about it, since we have 7+ billion people on this Earth. Each with their own “intrepreneur” genius waiting to be “undertook”. 🌺

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Agree with Katheryn. We have all been uniquely made. Exercising those unique gifts in our personal worlds will allow God to use us for the thing(s) for which we were made.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Ha! Loved this.

    I too once made a good living as an actress…..waitressing. I did everything backwards, most people become a waitress because they dream of becoming an actress. I dreamed of becoming a waitress and discovered the job really required some major acting skills. I had no idea I had such talent until I started working with the general public. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks, Mitch…nice post.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great line: ” Not everyone is an entrepreneur, some are intrepeneurs, making small but significant in-house improvements.”

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Timeless wisdom, and wonderful reminder. Thank you… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Anne J. says:

    Wonderful post/story, Mitch. Thank you for sharing with us.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Wayne says:

    I love it, Mitch!! I think I might fall into the “intrepreneur” category…thanks for helping me to realize that this is a category I need not be ashamed of 🙌🙌!!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Nancy Ruegg says:

    You’re right, Mitch: “The greatest successes are human ones.” Also love that scripture verse highlighting King Hezekiah’s example to us: seeking God and working wholeheartedly. You’ve given three ways for leaving a worthwhile legacy: Seek God (and live out his ways), work wholeheartedly (at the tasks he has chosen), and focus on people. As for money in the bank or a listing in Who’s Who? Not so valuable once we’re gone!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. pastorpete51 says:

    Mitch I want to say thanks for regularly taking the time to share your stories. I rarely respond but know that they are a blessing and challenge to me to do better!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. gpavants says:

    Hi Mitch,

    Amen! Your timing was perfect. I am at a decision point where I have to put money where my dream is as an author. I am asking the Lord step-by-by step because I just want to walk in His will, not my own. Your blog is a reminder to keep walking, talking, and praying. Thanks for your prayers,


    Liked by 1 person

  14. numrhood says:

    1 chronicles 56:45-46 & 47
    when i am afraid, i will trust in the lord!


  15. Pingback: Climbing your Mountains YOUR way | ADD . . . and-so-much-more

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