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Notion of Success Debated

By Elizabeth C. Bloom, Contributing Writer

Three speakers—each with ties to business or religion—discussed different perspectives on how to define personal success at an event sponsored by the Center for the Study of World Religions yesterday.

Harvard Business School professor Howard H. Stevenson, author of the book “Just Enough: Tools for Creating Success in Your Work and Life,” headlined the event and spoke about what constitutes “enough” personal success. Stevenson outlined what he believes are the four cornerstones of personal success—achievement, happiness, significance, and legacy.

When it comes to balancing these four characteristics, which he calls “the four satisfactions,” Stevenson said, “It’s about juggling...The most important ball is the one that’s falling.”

Following Stevenson, Harvard Divinity School lecturer Daniel P. McKanan ’89 responded to Stevenson’s comments from a spiritual perspective. McKanan said that Stevenson’s reading of success was very individualized in nature and said that while his four principles of success could also be fostered within religious communities, this has not occurred much to date. He said he hopes that religious communities can better integrate the four paths to personal success.

Candice Carpenter, a Business School graduate and co-founder of leading women’s network iVillage.com, also responded to Stevenson’s initial comments. Carpenter focused on the notion of “generative capitalism,” a form of capitalism that creates and adds meaning to personal lives.

“If I spend time consuming, I’m not creating,” Carpenter said.

Carpenter described a moment in time when she considered purchasing a $50,000 Versace dress. Ultimately, she said, she could not go through with the transaction, invoking Stevenson’s notion of “enough” to explain her thought process at the time.

“Because we can have anything, what’s enough?” Carpenter asked the audience.

The event’s moderator, Center Director Donald K. Swearer, said that yesterday’s talk, part of the Center’s series on “Ecologies of Human Flourishing,” was one way to bridge the divide between the Business School and the Divinity School.

“It’s time for the two tubs to get off their bottoms,” Swearer said, to laughter from the audience.

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