Read an Excerpt
How Do You Define Success?
What Do Brittany Whiteside, Chris Burke and Lyle Rincon Have in Common?
By the time she was thirteen years old, Brittany Whiteside dreamed of knowing her way around the Internet. She didn't even know exactly what it was she'd find there, but she was curious to find out. Creative Web pages especially caught her eye. Whenever Brittany spotted what she considered "an awesome Web page with an effect that was fun or a layout that was cool," she would take note of the source code. Then step-by-step she'd go through the source code so she could re-create it for herself later. By the time she was fifteen years old, Brittany had started her first Web site-one little page, with her hobby of beaded jewelry as its topic! Then, she decided her site would carry an array of beads from different wholesalers, instructions for re-creating beads, patterns pages on the history of beads and beautiful pictures of exquisite beadwork. Her one-page Web site now had four pages. She founded her company, "String Along"-with its ever-expanding Web site-and the rest is, as they say, "history"!
Today Brittany's site averages about forty-two hundred page views per day. It's grown into a huge archive, not only filled with everything Brittany had dreamed of, but also including listings of where to purchase nearly a thousand different kinds of beads, as well as one hundred bead-working patterns. It also posts two hundred pieces of beaded jewelry, beading tools and supplies, and all sorts of other beadwork items. Though Brittany is set to begin college in the fall, her lucrative company (like its creator) will remain, as she likes to put it, "stringing along," ever forward on the road to success.
Chris Burke was born with Down's syndrome. Children born with this syndrome have one too many chromosomes, resulting in a similar appearance, thwarted development and a ceiling on potential. Since IQ peaks out at around 75, capability and ability are severely limited-or so it was thought.
Most of the world now knows Chris Burke not only from his unforgettable interview on national television some years ago when he came in third in the Special Olympics-and wowed the world with his "acceptance" speech-but also as the charismatic and gifted actor and television star of the television series, Life Goes On. The show enjoyed four years of excellent ratings. He's also authored a bestselling book, A Special Kind of Hero, and is currently the editor-in-chief of the National Down's Syndrome Society magazine, devoting tireless energy to making his new dream come true-helping create a magazine to expand awareness and understanding of Down's syndrome. Chris offers some words on why he thinks this very special and much-needed national magazine is so successful: "We're successful because we talk about what works. We don't dwell on the negatives. We highlight victories!"
This very special young man has surged well beyond the commonly held assumptions of those with Down's syndrome. Interestingly it is not outside the scope of what he expects of himself. "I grew up with being told not to place limitations on myself," he says. "My parents taught me to always 'upgrade my expectations' and to set goals for a great life. My motto is: 'Find something you love to do, set goals for achieving it, and be willing to spend the time it takes to accomplish it.' That's the key to success. When you're doing what you like to do, it puts a smile on your face!" Chris adds, "I want to produce and direct a movie next. It's just a matter of time." Suddenly his eyes light up and he says, "I'd love to do a movie with Steven Spielberg. . . . Seriously, he's the very best director there is. He's my mentor: I want to be as good a director as he is." Laughing like a grizzly bear gargling through honey, Chris adds, "Someday, I will." Given his track record for goal-setting and achievement, we have no reason to doubt that Chris will do that, too.
By the age of eighteen, Lyle Rincon's life was spiraling out of control. Lyle had started drinking with friends, "just to party" on weekends when he was in the ninth grade, but by the time his senior year rolled around, Lyle was drinking on a regular basis, sometimes even before school in the morning. "When I got arrested for being under the influence of alcohol at a concert," Lyle told us, "I thought it was the worst thing that could ever happen to me. But now I can see I wasn't only arrested; I was actually rescued." Lyle was court-ordered into an alcohol awareness program where he learned about alcoholism, about himself and about how to live a life of sobriety. "I learned so much. One day at a time, I know I can live a successful life sober. Now, there are so many things I want to achieve. One of my most important goals is to become an alcohol awareness educator teaching DUI classes," Lyle explains. "While I never ended up with a DUI, I know that's where I was headed-and I'd like to help others who weren't as lucky as I was. I know firsthand how helpless and desperate being addicted to alcohol can make you feel-and I know firsthand that there's a way out."
With more than two years of sobriety, Lyle is now enrolled in college where he's completing courses to become certified as an alcohol and drug counselor. He volunteers at the outpatient program that he was once court-ordered to attend and has an internship at a "teen recovery center" in his area. "Right now success means two things to me: continuing to stay sober one day at a time (that's the biggest one), and two, to have a full-time career as an alcohol awareness educator." Already quite a success in his recovery, Lyle is well on his way to achieving his new goals.
What Makes a Person Successful?
In the stories above, which teen do you consider to be the "most successful"? Would you say that it was Lyle Rincon, who overcame alcoholism and was then moved to create a career of helping others around his experience? Or would you consider it Brittany Whiteside, who launched a hugely successful Web-based business of her very own and made an enormous amount of money in the process? Perhaps your idea of the greatest success is Chris Burke, who not only soared well beyond what is considered possible for someone born with Down's syndrome, but whose achievements are extraordinary for anyone his age?
So who is the most successful? It depends. What one person sees as success is not always the same as what the next person perceives it to be. To some, being a success may mean making a lot of money, while to another it may be winning a tough competition, and to yet another it could be overcoming a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. To someone else, "being successful" may be seen as having attained material things-such as a fancy car, their "dream home" or owning nicely tailored clothes-while for another it's having earned the recognition, admiration, and love of friends and family. For still others, it may be "peace of mind" or being healthy and feeling energetic and able to do the things the person wants to do. Success might even be perceived as an achievement, such as having lowered a sprint time, raised a math score, earned a college diploma or secured a position.
You can define success in many ways. Do you wonder why defining success is important? Knowing what you consider the mark of success for you helps you set your goals to reach that success. Overall, we could say Chris Burke's definition of a successful life was not to limit his possibilities. He had quite a lot of success goals met along the way to succeeding at his life-goal. Chris first viewed success as finishing the race at the Special Olympics, and he then made that the goal he raced toward achieving. Next, he saw success as having a starring role in a television series, and that became the goal he set for himself and achieved. Then, there was authoring the book, helping create the magazine, and now he's added directing to his definitions of success. Each time, each definition of what "success" would look like secured his placement of his goals and his course toward achieving them.
Lyle Rincon's definition of success is to help others understand and overcome alcoholism. Knowing this, Lyle has a direction for setting goals to secure a career in that field. Brittany Whiteside once defined success as being able to create her own Web site-we can see how her definition of success expanded, right along with the goals she set and achieved, all the way up to running her own successful Web-based business. Defining success helps you figure out where it is you want to go so that you can then set goals to get you there. So the question is, What is your definition of success? The following exercise will help you define it for yourself.
I'LL BE A SUCCESS WHEN I . . .
To me, "being a success" means:
I'll consider myself a "success" when:
Who is the most successful person you know, and why would you say this person is a success?
Name a success you have had in the last month. What goals did you set for achieving it?
Take a moment to think about your three biggest successes in life to date. What are they? Describe each one.
What do these "successes" tell you about your definition of "success"?
How will being "successful" make you different from how you are now? In what ways will you be different? Explain.
What one thing would you like to do or learn but haven't yet tried? What keeps (or prevents) you from accomplishing this?
It's Up to You!
As you can see, your definition of success is all your own. It's important in that it becomes your "blueprint" for setting those goals that will get you from here to there. Whether you're building a birdhouse or a castle, it will be helpful to have the right set of blueprints-the right goals.
Speaking of castles, have you ever wondered if you are dreaming big enough? This next chapter will help you create a "dream machine" big enough to go after your grandest dreams of success-which, of course, is exactly the way taste-berry teens would have it.
¬2002. All rights reserved. Reprinted from A Taste Berry Teen's Guide to Setting & Achieving Goals by Bettie B. Youngs, Ph.D., Ed.D. and Jennifer Leigh Youngs. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442.