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 and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Success!

  1. Wonderful post, Mitch. Yes the greatest successes are human ones because it is about love.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Eliza Ayres says:

    Reblogged this on Blue Dragon Journal.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Tina says:

    I laughed out loud at your opening statement. 😀 It was an interesting read. But now I feel pressured to do something great. *big eyes* I’m looking around, but I don’t have a clue. ☺ Guess time will tell. Maybe one day an alarm clock will give me an idea, or God…Yeah, probably God. 😁

    Liked by 5 people

  4. Clever Girl says:

    There are many ways in which to define success and we must each define it for ourselves. Nothing wrong with financial success, but there are countless other valuable and important ways of being successful. Great post!

    Liked by 6 people

  5. I’ve been fortunate to know, and to meet some remarkable people who have had amazing careers, and yes, some made discoveries that “changed the world”, but many more whose success – marriage, family, children -has been because of their transformation due to a life in Christ. Great post Mitch!

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Great post. Love how you describe success. It doesn’t always have to be a visionary, groundbreaking product. Sometimes a small opportunity can be a massive success

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Excellent advice! Our answer might just be right in front of us and we only have to look around!

    Liked by 3 people

  8. numrhood says:

    1 chronicles 56:45-46 & 47
    when i am afraid
    thou shall trust in thee
    missing 1 chronicles 31:22
    a merry heart
    does good like a medicine
    have faith in god

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Enjoyed the tie in at the end, lovely

    Liked by 2 people

  10. CG Thelen says:

    It puzzles me why cities spend millions trying to attract visitors, then they give them parking tickets for staying too long.
    Great post, Mitch. Success is t what we always think it is. God is in so many of the small things in life that are very important. I would write more but I have to go feed a meter 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  11. revruss1220 says:

    Great story! I had no idea that parking meters were such a recent invention. It is like the guy who invented Post-It Notes when he failed to make an adhesive that was strong enough to glue paper together.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. gpavants says:

    Hi Mitch,

    And being ahead of the game is tough. Do you see that a great opening for just plain good content in media is needed? I do. Though right now it seems that crap is king. I pray there is a great season for godly character.

    In Christ,


    Liked by 1 person

  13. Kathy says:

    To work wholeheartedly is sure what God calls us to do in whatever field He calls us to.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. charlypriest says:

    I myself didn’t finish my first year of college, but at the same time I think college is overrated. You said you got a job installing security devices in houses…you are protecting people. I worked in construction as a living…I was part of a team that made worm comfy places for people to live in. I saw that in the U.S theres a shortage of carpenters, electricians, the so called…forgot the name, the people who go to trade schools? Is it named like that, I’m from Spain so… Point being is how in the world is Bill Gates going to work if he didn’t have people who build the structure of his offices, all the electrical wiring, the carpenters, the guys in charge of the heat, water tubes, and the rest? And they are good paying jobs specially in the U.S.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Bill Sweeney says:

    Amen! Great post, Mitch.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Eliza says:

    Love the ending…

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Great post, Mitch! Great perspective on this. I spent some time thinking about this concept of success and as it happens a lot these days I can’t think about something without having to write about it. So I wrote an article titled ‘How Do You Define Success” – Feel free to check it out!

    Liked by 1 person

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