Success Key: Round Up The Usual Suspects

“Major Strasser has been shot. Round up the usual suspects.” –Claude Rains, AKA Captain Renault in Casablanca

A police officer has a problem, a puzzle to solve. One step he or she can take is to, “Round up the usual suspects.” It is possible that the answer to the puzzle lies with one of these individuals. Either someone in that group knows something about the “crime” or is involved in some way.

True, the perpetrator may be someone outside the usual group suspected by the police, but there is often a good chance that they are right.

When you decide to seek “success”; like the police, you can perform a great many actions to find what you are looking for. You can do a lot of research (detecting), you can get the thoughts and opinions of others (questioning), you can read classics on the subject and listen to CDs about how to be successful (training), and you can just do a lot of leg work (leg work – sorry, couldn’t resist). You can even “stake out” the joint, in hopes of catching sight of what success looks like and with whom it is hanging out. Another thing you can do is round up the usual suspects, or, in this case, suspect…you.

Back when you and I were kids, we knew exactly what success looked like and where to find it. We weren’t too sure about how to get there, but that was not important. What mattered to us was to be an astronaut, cowboy, doctor, teacher, carpenter, model, rock star…or any one of a million other dreams…when we grew up. Unfortunately, in the process of growing up, most of us have also grown away from those original fantastic flashes of brilliance which illuminated the pathway to our personal fame and glory.

Few things can so illuminate a path as a torch shining at the end of our journey, or at the least a visible target to aim for. Years ago, I used to train people to find their way over all sorts of terrain. One problem many people had was that they spent so much time looking at the space around them that they lost site of the target point and wandered off the track. While wandering off-track can be fun, it tends to take us farther away from our goal.

As pointed out, growing up presented us with a huge selection of other paths and many of us decide that the dream is too far away or too difficult to reach. Perhaps we assume other responsibilities, and, having chosen that path, lose our way in terms of what could have been “success” and happiness had we not strayed. That’s not to say that people, having chosen other paths, do not ever achieve success or happiness in the role they have found themselves in, but how much happier might they have been had they continued to listen to the boy or girl inside who knew EXACTLY what would make them happy.

Let me tell you a small story.

In the 1920’s in Atlanta, Georgia, there was a boy whose mother died when he was very young and whose father worked for the railroad. The boy lived with various relatives, but one of his father’s sisters really wound up raising him. Through her, he learned to love music and the arts. He got a decent education and, along the way, he learned to play the violin. He played so well, in fact, that, still in his teens, he played first violin for a symphony orchestra.

In those days, however, it was hard to make a living as a “fiddle player”, and he soon had a wife and children to support. He fell back on some earlier training, became a watch maker, and eventually an instrument mechanic at Pensacola Naval Air Station finally retiring after over 30 years of service. He was a pillar of the community, respected at work and at his church, and was regularly called upon to serve in one capacity or another. It seemed that, although not rich or famous, almost everybody in the area knew him by name.

Through all those years, he never lost his love of music. Although he never touched a violin again, he bought records and tapes of classical music and played them regularly, a wistful look upon his face.

How much more “successful” he would have been had he looked within and recognized that the love he had for his music was not only something which could have fed his family and made him a much, much happier man, but which would have allowed him to give a wonderful gift to the world.

Fortunately, he did pass his love of beauty and music on to his children, and sometimes I take out my father’s old 78’s and listen to the songs and sounds he loved so much.

I am not saying that we have no need to accept responsibilities and even sometimes sacrifice our finest dreams in order to build something more important. If my grandchildren need my help, or just my time, the computer will be put away, the writing which I love so much will stop, and I will teach them how to play baseball and read stories of heroes and dragons. Since life has given me a second chance to live the dream I put away so many years ago to shoulder what I saw as MY responsibilities, I will use this time to follow the beacon I first saw in a high school English class over 40 years ago.

I looked within myself and there I found the answer to my puzzle. The suspect I met within was a young man from many years ago who remembered the vision he had seen. He was able to give me the clues I needed to solve the riddle of how I could find happiness. He and I are going to have many great years together, I think.

Or, as Humphrey Bogart said at the end of Casablanca as he and Claude Rains walked away to join the Resistance: “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”