Mini-Feature: Attributing Success

What do you attribute the biggest successes in your life to?

Perseverance, the ability to play the long game, and spurts of boldness, besides the grace of God.

-Matthew Peterson, founding editor of The American Mind


To me, outsized success is simply not possible without risk. Trouble will find you: don't try to hide. Life is challenges: create some good ones to strengthen yourself against the bad. The life we have been given is not a "safe space," yet we need and want spaces of safety: building them, even conceiving of them and understanding what they really are, requires risk. But not just any risk in all these cases, and not strictly on your own. The risk of taking on risk with others is the big one you need. When a culture breeds a people who have lost the capability to know what risk is and why it is needed, individually and together, collapse is around the corner. 

-James Poulos, executive editor of The American Mind


My imagination and delight in talking to people. 

It's easy to find a comfortable mental groove and ride it out into the sunset. And this makes sense, of course. But it can be deadening intellectually. Aristotle or Plato, I can't remember which, jokes (but not really) that after a certain age (is it 35? S***!) it is impossible for one to learn to philosophize. That's just a fancy way of saying don't get stuck in your ways. The best way to prevent ossification is to read and talk to people. Yap yap yap yap. That's what I like to do. Drop me a line.

-David Bahr, managing editor of The American Mind

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This one is easy. God alone is the author of all my gifts, skills, talents, and advantages to date and hereafter, including but not limited to the discipline with which I put those good basics to good use.  

This is not false modesty—it is not a disingenuous minimization of those gifts I do have. On the contrary: it is an acknowledgement of the goodness of those gifts, and their source, an acknowledgement without which no carefree joy is possible. To release yourself from the trap of forever wondering whether you “earned” or “deserve” the good things in your life, simply confess utterly and without reservation that you did not and do not. 

Gratitude to humans where due is a virtue. But gratitude to God in all things is an indispensable premise of all happiness, and saves you from feeling guilty about the debts you owe to others who have helped you along the way. We are in the business of receiving and exchanging unmerited benefaction. That is all. 

-Spencer Klavan, associate editor of The American Mind