What I am saying is this: the score is not what matters. Life does not have to be regarded as a game in which scores are kept and somebody wins. If you are too intent on winning, you will never enjoy playing. If you are too obsessed with success, you will forget to live. If you have learned only how to be a success, your life has probably been wasted.
I found this quote in the middle of an interesting post over at the blog Dharmas. I have long loved Merton's brilliant mind and hearty spirit, and feel that he was someone who both fully embodied his particular spiritual path (Catholicism), while also, in many ways, transcending it's limitations.
Anyway, he's right about success. However, I'd argue we can go even further with the point.
How often do we even know what success is in a given situation?
Penn State's football team won an awful lot of games under Coach Joe Paterno, and yet now it appears that the "winning culture" developed during those years also made it easier for former assistant Coach Sandusky to get away with sexually abusing children.
Wells Fargo recently reported record quarterly profits, while home evictions under their watch continue unabated.
I won an award during grad school for my poetry and creative essay writing, and still haven't published the vast majority of the work that garnered the attention.
And so it goes. Every "winning" situation seems to contain elements of its undoing. Everything we label successful is provisional, contextual, and impermanent.
The same can be said about failure.
Whatever label-hat you choose to wear in a given moment, don't let it sink in, and don't forget to live.