As a kid, I distinctly remember equilibrating the number of keys an adult had with success. Simply stated, the more keys one had, the more successful they were.  I’m not sure why I thought that, except to assume that each key was associated with a second (or third) car, a beach house or other vacation property, or perhaps an office.  More keys? Clearly, more success!

For a few years, I had keys – lots of them! As a Resident Advisor for the Georgia Institute of Technology my junior, senior, and graduate years, I carried master keys to multiple dormitories. In addition, I had access to the Cherry Emerson building, the Civil Engineering Experiment Station, the physiology labs, and my graduate office.  Yep.  I had a lot of keys…

When I graduated from Tech and moved on to Emory University to further my career, those keys were all left behind.  Although I now only had five keys, I didn’t feel unsuccessful.  Indeed, I’d earned both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in science from Georgia Tech, gotten married, moved into my first apartment, and started dental school.  Two keys operated my wife’s car, two keys operated mine, and one key unlocked the door to our new home.  What more did I need?

In time, I came to realize and appreciate that the “keys to success” have nothing to do with keys that open locks.  The keys to success include the skills we build throughout our lifetime, the knowledge we acquire, the work ethic we develop, and the wisdom that comes with experience.  Our success is enhanced by our ability to work with others for a common goal, to appreciate different viewpoints, to assess and evaluate new information, and to create the unforeseen through critical thinking.  And I believe that true success requires that we serve and mentor others, live with humility, act ethically, and remain responsible stewards of our assets.

Keys.  Isn’t it funny how our perspective on so many things change as we age?  Success in life is filled with intangibles, not physical things you unlock with a key.  Retired now from a busy small town practice that brought me great satisfaction and joy, I am quite content with the few keys I have.  One operates my car, one operates my wife’s car, and one unlocks the door to our home of forty-five years. What more do I need?

As you begin this new year, consider your keys to success.  What will you do in the coming months to enhance your personal and/or professional growth?  And remember, it’s not about how many keys you possess, but how you’ll use and build upon those you already have…


Mountaintop Moments(3) resized“Success is the maximum utilization of the ability that you have.
Zig Ziglar

Dr. Kerr

Author Dr. Kerr

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