My New Definition of Success

Who is more successful: the one who has more than he wants or the one who has less than he wants?

My new definition of success… is to want nothing.

There was a painter in San Francisco who returned home to his apartment to find that it had burned to the ground. As the painter looked at the ruble, his neighbor stood beside him distraught. The neighbor screamed, “I have lost everything! How could this happen?! How will I recover – all of my most valuable things are now gone!”

The painter turned away from him and decided to take a walk. He walked a long way and found himself in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the city. As he walked along, there by the side of the curb in a trash barrel was a child’s blank painting-canvas and paints that had never been opened. Because it was in the trash, the painter pulled them out, tucked them under his arm, and walked away. The next day the painter returned to that same house, walked past the two Ferraris sitting in the driveway, and knocked on the door. A wealthy tech executive who had been quarantined at home answer the door. He had been yelling into his phone when he stopped and stared aghast at the painter. “Why are you here; what do you want?” the executive demanded. The painter handed him the art he had produced with the executive’s discarded canvas and paints. “You gifted out of your abundance yesterday to the world,” the painter said, “and so I wanted to give you a gift in return.” The tech executive looked at the painting. It was one of the most beautiful pieces of art he had ever seen. He asked the painter, “Why would you do this? You could have sold this for a lot of money.” The painter replied, “What more do I need? I have more than I want already. I have clean water; I have fresh air; I have good friends; I have abundant opportunity; I have my faculties and the ability to work. All of these are more than I want, and so I live in abundance. I don’t need to sell this painting so I can give it freely.”

The tech executive thanked him, closed the door, sat down and thought for a long while. The next morning he took a picture of the painter’s art and put it on a website sending a link out to some friends. The painting went viral and the painter became famous. When the painter was interviewed about the phenomenon of his success, he was asked how much happier he was now that he was rich and famous. The painter looked curiously at the interviewer, “Why would I be any happier now? I already had more than I wanted so why would having twice as much as I want make me any happier?”

There will come a day when this COVID-19 crisis is over and we will return to abundance. Until then, we can use this time to become truly successful by lowering our wants while we give our gifts to the world.

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