Shlomo Ezagui

The Definition of Success

Holly Mandarich (Unsplash)

So, you tried your best and still did not succeed.

One of the innovative thoughts of Chassidus is that a person does not always require success. Chassidus helps people see life through a humbler lens, coaxing them to realize that life is not always how I “need” or believe it “should” be.

A Chassid who studies the teachings of Chassidus, introduced by Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698–1760), learns to accept everything in life with love, even adversity. “A Chassid is never lacking success.”

“It is not upon you to bring everything to its conclusion, and you are not free to desist from putting in an effort to make it work.” God judges and responds to us according to our choices and sincere efforts toward His ends.

One of the most pressing psychological conditions these days is anxiety. Too much anxiety and tension lead to stress and medical conditions affecting the heart and the mind. We are so fearful of not fitting in with our peers that we will compromise our ethics, morals, religion, and family life to assimilate. People come home stressed from work or school and lash at their spouse or children, undermining the most important components of a meaningful and fulfilled life.

One of the factors which exacerbate this condition is the so-called self-help industry. They will tell you it is all up to you. If you do this and do that, then you are guaranteed success. In reality, this only guarantees that the unlucky majority of us who can never achieve the success we have been “promised” experience anguish, heartbreak, and anxiety.

They will ask themselves, “If I did everything right, why didn’t I win the gold medal in my class, the silver medal in my circle of friends, or even the copper medal?” Because they were told success is within reach for everyone, they will be back for more self-help and motivation, only to cycle through this process repeatedly until exhaustion sets in.

Then some did not make the proper choices and created undesirable consequences. How does Chassidus view these people at the moment of what appears to be a genuine failure?

The previous Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Yoseph Yitzchak Schneerson (1880-1950), taught, “There is never ‘lost’ and ‘failure’ with no hope.”

Once one realizes his mistake and sincerely intends to mend his ways, he may do so through the Godly act of Teshuvah. Teshuvah is returning to the proper way of thinking and behaving on the correct path. Through this connection with God, the person can retroactively accomplish impossible things and draw blessings and good from the current “negative” situation. “This, too, is for the good.”

Chassidus enables us to hear the upbeat melody in all circumstances if only we learn to tune in to the right frequency with our minds.

Lest anyone think the Bible (as taught by the presentation of Chassidus) is all about determinism or fatalism, Rabbi Yoseph Yitzchok reminds us of the following regarding the philosophy and teachings of Chassidus:

“The goal of Chassidus is actual, genuine, and concrete self-work. Whoever thinks the teachings of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov and his students are only about intellectual pursuits is making a grave error. It is a pity on him, his body, and his soul.”

As the quote toward the start of this chapter instructs us, we can never cease in our genuine efforts. Every time we try and try again, we refine and strengthen ourselves. Every time one starts all over again, with complete trust that God will come through for him, he draws closer to his goal with the help of God.

Success, is in successfully carrying out the process towards (self) improvement and worthy goals. 

If God decides to grant him his effort, they are blessed, and if not, they are also blessed.

The fun is taking the journey and enjoying all the beautiful surprises along the way.

Chapter 247

About the Author
Rabbi Shlomo Ezagui is an author and lecturer. "A Spiritual Soul Book" ( & "Maimonides Advice for the 21st Century" ( In 1987, Rabbi Ezagui opened the first Chabad Center in Palm Beach County, Florida, and the first Orthodox Synagogue on the island of Palm Beach, Florida.
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