In America today, the standard way of calculating success is in terms of material gain. Wealth and acquisition of bigger and better possessions are the driving force behind our culture as well as our capitalist economy. “Keeping up with the Jones’s” is a familiar cliché that accurately describes the goals of the average American for the latest and greatest and the biggest and the best. This is how most people believe we are measured in society. 19th Century American philosopher and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson had a different concept of success, however. Emerson says “To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the 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…to know one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” ("Ralph Waldo Emerson") Emerson’s notions of success are not based on the acquisition of material possessions, but on higher minded ideas such as earned respect from one’s peers and the value of contributing to the greater wellbeing of one’s community. I believe that Emerson’s perception of success is far superior to the traditional American model. Materialism perpetuates a vicious cycle of consumerism and debt, the very sort of cycle that has facilitated the current dire state of America’s economy. Adherences to the high minded notions of respect, genuine affection, and community building that Emerson espouses, however, can only contribute to making the world a better place. A perfect example of the repercussions of materialism exits within my own family dynamic. My mother grew up in an affluent family. Her father was a pro... ... middle of paper ... ...age money responsibly and serve others is like being able to use electric current in a productive manner. We can become powerful transformers for the currency of society. How we use that power is a great responsibility.” The ideas of both of these 21st century authors corresponds with Emerson’s notion of success based on leaving the world a better place, not simply acquiring more things. Likewise, the empty relationship with my mother’s materialistic family versus the rewarding bond I share with my father’s family clearly illustrates the fundamental truth in Emerson’s quote. Measuring success by wealth and gain only serves to drive people apart and perpetuate a shallow, incomplete view of the world focusing on the high minded ideals Emerson espouses; genuine affection, finding the best in one another, and appreciating beauty, that is the true measure of success.