Defining Success

It’s an amazing thing to watch your children grow. I guess I’ve always known that being a parent is a special gift that holds a lifetime of rewards, but you really don’t get it until your children are on their own. Sure, you experience the joy of a baby, the thrills of all the “firsts” that a child goes through, the gold stars on homework and tests, the first goal on the playing field, the magical moments of their first love. But you never truly understand what a gift you’ve been given until a couple decades have passed, or come close to passing. That’s when you stop seeing them as children and begin seeing them as real, grown-up, decision-making, mistake-prone people. It’s also when you begin to wonder, even worry, about how they will define and discover success.

Because being successful, according to world standards, is hard! There’s so much conflicting advice out there. Find your passion. Make lots of money. Wait to get married. Go, get married. Wait to have children. Have children while you’re young. Make money, not babies. Follow your heart. Follow your head. How is any young person supposed to know what to do? Did you know that 80% of college students in the US change their majors at least once, and most students change their majors three times in the course of their college careers? Why? They have no idea what they should do, or WANT to do, to be successful.

Our oldest, Rebecca, has known for years that she wants to be an attorney. Her father, an attorney, majored in Biology and Chemistry and told her from the start that she should choose a major she loved and work hard to be the best in that field of study. He knew, as Elle Woods learned, that you don’t have to slog through political science to get into law school (that’s coming from yours truly, a poli sci major). Rebecca took this to heart…eventually. She tried out several majors, beginning with criminal justice, and moving on to an array of others before finding that she had a passion for philosophy. It seemed that every other month, she called me with the familiar opening, “Mom, I’m changing my major.” I often wondered if she would ever finish college. But she did, and in only four years.

The day Rebecca decided on Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law

With a double major in philosophy and sociology, as well as a minor in legal studies, she made it into one the best law programs in the country and finished her first year, ranked within the top of 20 of the class. So much for doing things the traditional way, or even the easy way. Rebecca found what she loved and made it work for her. I’d call that a good start on the road to success.

Throughout Katie’s life, everyone she encountered told her that she would make a wonderful teacher. Katie wanted no parts of that. She whole-heartedly believed those who told her that being a teacher just isn’t worth it. She was often told that children were too hard to deal with, that the money isn’t worth the hassle, and that she was too smart to teach. She applied for college as a communication major, hoping to make her love of photography and her writing skills the building blocks of a successful career in journalism. Just two weeks before she left for college, she came to me in a panic. “Mom, I don’t want to be a journalist. I want to be a teacher!” Hallelujah! I was so happy, I almost cried. Okay, maybe I did cry a little. After a few phone calls and several emails, Katie’s class schedule was adjusted, and she was ready to begin her study of education.

Katie and some of her students

And how about now, ten months later? Katie is student-teaching at a bilingual school in Peru and loving every second of it. Every day, I look forward to her texts, containing pictures of “her kids”  and details about what she’s teaching them. And here’s what has struck her the most–in Peru, like many countries outside of the US, she found that “teachers are treated like rock stars!”

Do you know that teachers’ salaries in the US ranked TWNETY-SEVENTH in the modern world, ahead of Italy, Hungary, Chile, and the Slovak and Czech Republics? And that US teachers are tied with doctors and nurses for the most stressful careers and get little support for the hard, demanding jobs they do? Where are our priorities, America? 

Checking out the nursing lab at Morgan’s chosen college.

And speaking of nurses… Morgan will be a senior in high school in the fall. More focused than almost any young person I know, she has already chosen her college and her field of study. After the suffering and death of her grandfather, earlier this year, Morgan knew that she was being called to be a nurse. But what was she recently told by a family member? “Be a doctor. You’re too smart to be a nurse.”

What is it with our culture that makes us diminish the importance of certain necessary careers? Did you know that nurses almost never have trouble finding a job? That being a nurse “is the ultimate opportunity” for travel? That nurses can specialize in any area of interest, bringing their passions to their job in ways most people will never be able to? That they are “the most trusted profession”? And that they have tremendous earning power? These are just a few of the many reasons to choose nursing over any other profession. Yet I know that many people will look down on Morgan, like they will Katie, because her chosen profession just isn’t good enough.

On the heels of the deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, many are wondering who, if anyone, is immune to the disease of helplessness and despair. While attorneys sit right in the middle of those more or less likely to take their own lives, health care professionals have an 80% lower suicide rate than the top victims of suicide. The lowest rate was in teachers, educators, and librarians. Perhaps we need to take a long, hard look at what really makes people happy, where they can find comfort and hope, and how they can discover their self-worth and be successful.

Perhaps we will never all agree about what true success is. Sure, you can listen to all kinds of Ted Talks, telling you what success is and how to achieve it. But I think that Inc. Magazine was pretty close to the mark when it printed, “If you believe success is simply making (or having) a lot of money, you may be setting yourself up for failure.” The author claims that success means one of two things to most people–either you’re happy or you’re rich. He argues that to be truly successful, you should be both. He says that the key is to define success as being happy, finding your passion, and becoming rich in happiness, which can lead to monetary wealth as well. 

My grandfather had a plaque on his desk that now sits on my husband’s dresser. The quote is most often attributed to Robert Louis Stevenson. It’s a beautiful verse that I hope my girls, and all of you, will remember and take to heart.


Please join me in celebrating the much-anticipated release of Island of Promise, the second book in my Chincoteague Island Trilogy. I am very happy to partner with Sundial Books on Chincoteague for this celebration. All are welcome on Wednesday, July 24 from 1:00-3:00 at Sundial Books. For more details:

The second book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, is now available to pre-order.

What I was writing about this time last year:  Three Simple but GIGANTIC Reasons to Try Something New

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me, Whispering Vines,  and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016.  Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her latest children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available; and her novel, Summer’s Squall, can be found online and in stores. 

You may follow Amy on Facebook at, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at at

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017).