The Nature of Success

“There is no failure in this life, there is only our perception of the matters”, wrote 16-year-old Ha Minh Ngoc in an essay that has received wide acclaim and generated much discussion among the public. The essay by the student of Ha Noi Pedagogy University’s high school is more than just the product of careful research; it reveals the thoughts of a teenage school girl and the values she discerns in real life.

Ha Minh Ngoc
Her mother, a teacher at Ha Noi Medical University, plays an important role in her study. Her father, who works for the Health Ministry’s Highland Project Management Board, is mighty proud of his daughter’s essay and has shown it to all his friends.

“Thank you for your lesson; this encouragement comes at the right time for me. You’re a great success. I hope you will go on to achieve more,” Ngoc’s teacher told her.

Here is a rough (very rough) edited translation of Ngoc’s thoughts.

The nature of success

Have you ever asked yourself what is this success that so many people spend their entire lives seeking? Is it the perfect outcome from a certain job that was done precisely in every single detail? Or is it just the ambition to be wealthy and famous? Think about it a little. Life will show you that there are some people who have achieved success in a surprisingly simple way.

Success is when father and son have the courage to get in the kitchen and cook for Mom on the eight of March. The soup might be a little salty, the tomato sauce should have been red instead of … turning black, but when she sees the dishes laid out before her, Mom smiles. Because even though her husband and child could not win in the “battle of cooking”, they have succeeded in giving her the rose of love - a gift that is more beautiful than any precious gem. Happiness glows in Mom’s eyes.

Success can come to the disabled boy who will never walk properly. He’s always wanted to be a football player since he was tiny. After relentless efforts, he eventually becomes a substitute in a small football team but never plays, not once. That is not a failure though. On the contrary, success has smiled at the boy who, through great will power and endless striving, has overcome his difficulties and fulfilled his childhood dream. How many people can achieve that sort of success?


After every college entrance examination, how many students are depressed about their results? Now 27/30 is a really high mark, yet what good is it when the student’s first choice requires a 27.5? But that is actually not a failure; it is a deferred success. Life still welcomes them with second or third options. The most important thing is that they have tried their best to position themselves. And that is the complete meaning of examinations, the nature of success.

When I was a child, I was told a very touching story. It was about a little poor boy who had been asked to write about his mother – the woman who was raising him.  The boy wrote about a woman with gray hair and rough yet gentle and warm hands. He concluded that his grandmother was a mother – the woman that took care of him his whole life.

Technically the boy hadn’t written about his mother so he was told to rewrite the composition. But that was truly successful writing, expressing the great love of an orphan who was devoted to his grandmother. Is there any success or love more sacred than that?

Several years ago, the press praised a poor student for scoring top marks in the college entrance examination. To him, that was a success. But there was another success, silent yet great, and it was the triumph of a father who had been a cyclo driver for 20 years, the man who had raised the child. Belief and hope shone on the father’s face, and the day his son got into college was also the father’s graduation day.

I know a woman who graduated with distinction nearly 20 years ago. With her ability, she could have made a success out of any career. But that student accepted sacrificing her opportunities and became a good wife and the great mom of two little princesses. Now middle aged, she often tells me: “Taking care of your dad and you two, to me, is a success”. Every time I hear that, I cry. Family is happiness and my mom’s beautiful achievement, and we have her to thank.

Human beings always thirst for success, but it is nonsense if they pursue success blindly. You want to be rich, want to be a billionaire like Bill Gates? So fold your money carefully and give it to the old beggar on the street. With that generous act, you can show everybody that you are not only materially wealthy, you are rich in your soul. Then, you are really successful.

You may dream success will come to you like, say, a form of it has come to Abramovich. After all, he owns a top football team. The truth is that success is not far away. You just need to spend a little more time taking care of your family football team. In return, you will receive endless love, something that Abramovich cannot get from any of his players. Success comes to everyone that simply and sweetly.

"Happiness glows in Mom's eyes".   (Photo:KK)

You are born, it is a marvelous success for your parents. Your responsibility is to preserve the complete beauty of that success.

Don’t ever think darkly that life is a chain of failure, because like a British professor said: “There is no failure in this life, there is only our perception of the matters.”

And to me, success comes when someone reads this small piece of writing.
Perhaps it may not get a high mark, but being able to convey my thoughts onto these pages, to me, is a success.

By Ha Minh Ngoc - Translated by Khuong An

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