Defining and Measuring Success

In the New York Times magazine for June 28, there’s a full-page ad on page 5, with the headline, “SPEND one day a year getting a complete health exam or the next 364 wishing you had.” The ad touts Mount Sinai’s “Executive Health program,” in which “senior

Ad in the NY Times magazine, 6/26/09

Ad in the NY Times magazine, 6/26/09

physicians using advanced  non-invasive diagnostic screening technogies” check you out and you get “personally ushered through [tests] with same-day results.”

The word “Spend” is all capitalized in the headline. The headline motivates through fear. Get a checkup or you might regret it.  That ad got me thinking. Top-level executives can be scared into spending. They get the big bonuses. They can afford “executive-level” medical care because they deserve the best health care. They get the non-invasive tests run by “senior physicians” and get personally ushered right by the rest of us, who, because we do not have clout, (read: money) must settle for the invasive tests run by interns that suck up vacation days and cost us a bundle.

We know this is so, but to run an ad about this great program is an amazing insult. I know the reaction–most people will think if they spend  a little more money, they can pretend to be executives and get good care. Don’t fool yourself. This is another step in the “C-level or drown” thinking we have brought on ourselves.

Shouldn’t medical care be a little more egalitarian? Why should the senior physician automatically be assigned to the executive? Because they are both successful? Because the rich, most of whose salary we pay or agree to, are more important?

There is a lot of attention paid to C-level executives (CEO, CFO, CIO) simply because they have the title. And if they have that title, they must be better, smarter, more successful.

And that’s what I have to disagree with–that money is a measure of success.  As long as we make money the common denominator, those with a smaller number below the line will get a smaller piece of justice, medicine, education. When money is the measure, then getting the money becomes the only proof, the goal worth fighting for.

That’s how we got to where we are now. The people who thought they had real money, real equity, who were given real mortgages that were built on a base of need and greed and illusion.

Haven’t we had enough of that yet? How much more do we have to believe that a big car makes us worthwhile? What’s success to you? How do you measure your worth? Kindness?  Understanding? Inner peace? Achievement? What kind of achievement?

Let me know how you meaure success in the comments. I want to know.

—Quinn McDonald is a writer and successful owner of QuinnCreative. She also works on a combined art-and-writing project in which strangers comment on life in shared journals.