February 2016: Success in Community

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Success doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

American folklore is thick with the lone hero motif; that misunderstood visionary who follows his heart and bootstraps his way to success. Even now, the mythology endures, as if Steve Jobs built the iPhone all by himself or Martha Stewart bakes all the cakes.

As much as some would like you to believe that they made it on their own, anything we accomplish is undoubtedly due to the support and participation of others.

And that’s great news: you don’t have to do it on your own! Asking for help is not a sign of weakness; it’s absolutely necessary if you’re going to create something worthwhile.

More importantly, life’s triumphs are best savored with others, from ceremonies to afterparties. Even vicarious success is more exciting in a group (note to self: coordinate viewing parties for the Super Bowl and the Academy Awards!).

What does success look like — not just in the context of a community, but for a community itself? During Black History Month and the first month of presidential primaries, it’s worthwhile to consider whether our communities’ progress are best measured by specific milestones or measurable waves of change.

Last night, I saw the delightful 5th Avenue Theatre production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, the satirical 1961 musical about making it to the top through smoke and mirrors, amusing chicanery, and fortunate (for some) accidents. While I always advocate dancing and singing one’s way to success, I hope you agree that true success does not include stepping on others on your way to the top. (High-stepping, however, is highly encouraged.)

How do you define community? Which communities are you part of? What communities have contributed to your success?

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