Ralph Waldo Emerson on Success

I stumbled over this poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson today. He is a 19th cc. US American thinker, literate and poet. He belongs to the school of transcendentalists as I read. So, he belonged to a generation of people, whose attempt was to define spirituality and religion that reflect  the new understandings of their era. He was involved in social reforms such as  anti-slavery and women’s rights.

What he wrote about success made me think. I read these lines over and over to pick my most favorite one, even though I can identify myself with the entire poem. For me this is the purest, yet most contentful and actually the most beautiful definition of success. Here is what he says:


To laugh often and much
to win the respect of intelligent people
and affection of children; to earn the
appreciation of honest critics and
endure the betrayal of false friends;
to appreciate beauty, to find the best
in others; to leave the world a bit
better, whether by a healthy child
a garden patch or redeemed
social condition; to know even
one life has breathed easier because
you have lived. This is to have

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Now I know my most favorite line: “..to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.” . I thought hard to decide whether this holds for me…I don’t know, I really don’t. I hope so…It matters to me.
This line crosses my mind everyday now. It makes me happy, makes me feel better.  Because each new day gives me the chance to make it happen.

2 thoughts on “Ralph Waldo Emerson on Success

  1. “to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived”
    If it hasnt happened already, with a heart as pure as yours, it is inevitable that you will have such an effect on someone.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.