What do you hear, when you hear the word Glory? You probably hear Success jangling around under it. If someone up and says, Success!, what do you hear then?
I hear endings. I hear epilogue, being written after the fact, usually with a good dose of revisionist history.
You almost never hear someone call something glorious in the moment it’s happening. It’s also rare to hear a prediction of glory, because unless you’re doing something that involves a definite end – like being a last-holdout defender in a siege, or becoming a suicide bomber – there’s no sure way to see what, if any, final ramifications your actions are going to have. It’s tough to predict glory, but it’s really easy to claim it once the event has passed.
It’s the same with success, it’s a form of revisionist history. Some of the most powerful people I can think of never claim to be truly successful, because they know – like you know – that they’re not finished yet. Success is finishing a project. Success is designing your victory (another single-tense word) and acting as the hand that says “Here, this is done. It’s yours now.” Success exists only in the past. Just like glory, and victory, it has no place in your plans.
Another great example of past-tense-singularity is golden Age. I hate this phrase. It implies that all of the good about whatever it is you’re describing has gone, and what we’re left with is the remnants, the fruits of our success, and the mitigating treaties by which we measure our past victory. There is light at the end of the tunnel, though, because as soon as a golden age is declared, you know there’s a sure sign you’re going to have to look for something else to succeed at. You can change tracks, get on to being the one who will create the next golden age, and no one will be the wiser until you succeed spectacularly and leave everyone else in the dust.
Prophecy is like this too, except prophecy works in reverse. It’s revisionist future. Prediction of any kind is a wonderful business to be in, because if it fails you can always claim people didn’t do things your way; and if it succeeds, you ride that success right to the top. It’s like a wish-list, and if you get really good at it, it becomes a calling card that says either “I know what’s going on,” or “I know how to make enough people listen to me, that whatever I say, goes on anyway.”
People love to label things. It’s our nature; we like communicable ideas, and the best communicable ideas fit into nice, neat packages like success, glory, victory and prophecy. Part of your job – and mine – is to see past the packages and assess the real contents. And, if there’s value beyond the single-tense useless cage it’s been put in, to act on that value in a way that’s to your own highest good.
And you’ll succeed. I know you will. Just like I will. Because we both say so.
Photo by ms4jah.