There are many personal characteristics by which one might achieve success — courage, perseverance, strength, intelligence, aptitude, even luck. I’d add two more. But first, I want to introduce and modify a notion.

The late, legendary Zig Ziglar once wrote:

You can have everything you want in life if you just help enough other people get what they want.

Bearing in mind that Mr. Ziglar was a salesman, I’d modify that notion in this way:

You can have everything you want in life if you just help enough other people get what they need.

The two characteristics I’d add are compassion and determination. I wrote those two words on a sheet of paper on which I was taking notes during a recent meeting. And I wrote them because of the two women with whom I was meeting.

Elizabeth Alvord is the Director of the Ivoryton Library, a wife, and the mother of two. She was in the meeting because she’s compassionate and determined enough to want books in her library for everyone, including what she referred to as emerging adult readers. (I wrote that down, too.) She didn’t have to be there. She didn’t have to care enough to attend the meeting. She didn’t have to be compassionate or determined. But she was anyway.

Jennifer Farrell is a writer, a teacher with three different certifications from the State of Connecticut, a wife, and also the mother of two. She was in the meeting because she’s compassionate and determined enough to want books that her two dyslexic daughters (also emerging adult readers) can read. She didn’t have to be there. She didn’t have to care about children other than her own. She didn’t have to be compassionate or determined. But she was anyway.

We were meeting to discuss the possibility of writing books for those emerging adult readers. The three of us were there because what might not yet exist can be created. I was there because Elizabeth and Jennifer are inspirations and role models to me. Given their humility, they’d dismiss and and likely be embarrassed by that fact. It’s true, nevertheless.

What most of us want in life, I believe, is to know that when our visit here on the planet is over, we’ll have made a difference, we’ll have left the world a better place by virtue of our visit. That desire is what keeps us focused on the important things — compassion and determination. It’s what caused Elizabeth and Jennifer to be in our meeting. It’s what caused Don Henley to write these lyrics in his song, “Gimme What You Got“:

You spend your whole life
Just pilin’ it up there.
You got stacks and stacks and stacks.
Then Gabriel comes and taps you on the shoulder,
But you don’t see no hearses with luggage racks.

If you can’t take it with you, you might as well leave it here. The world will be better for your having given it.

If you don’t believe that, you’re welcome to join Elizabeth and Jennifer the next time we meet to help other people get what they need.