Sample Definition Essay - "Success"
Success: The Myth
by Feross Aboukhadijeh, 11th grade

Do you know someone rich and famous? Is he confident, popular, and joyful all of the time—the epitome of mainstream success? Or, on the other hand, is he stressed, having second thoughts about his life choices, and unsure about the meaning of his life? I am willing to be that it is the second one. Mainstream marketing and media have effectively brainwashed our society into accepting a false, even potentially dangerous definition of success. Marketers want us to believe that having lots of money, living in a big house, and owning all of the latest cars, fashions, and technology is the key to happiness, and hence, success. This overstated, falsely advertised myth is hardly ever the case in real life. True success requires respect, appreciation, integrity, and patience—all of which are traits that by human nature are genuinely difficult to attain—especially in the face of modern marketers who relentlessly deceive us, control our thoughts, and usurp our independence in order to increase their bottom line.
Marketers want us to believe that living a selfish life, involving nothing but the pursuit of money and fame will bring success and happiness. Sadly, this is not true. Money is comparable to the often-mentioned new toy—fun while it is brand new and fresh, but terribly boring and unexciting after a few hours of play. Though money can buy conveniences and comforts, one needs much more than superficial luxuries to live a successful, well-balanced life. Money does make life easier—but it does not necessarily make it better. For example, money can not make one knowledgeable or wise – that only comes with hard work and committed study. And money can not help one forge a long-term relationship with husband or wife – that only comes through love, commitment, and sacrifice. All the money in the world cannot teach respect or courtesy – that only comes with a good up-bringing and a strong concern for the feelings of others. Can money give one the gift of patience or leadership or appreciation or courage or friendship or even generosity? I don’t think so. All of these traits—knowledge, wisdom, love, respect, patience—are essential aspects of a successful person’s life. Money can not assist in the attainment of any of these vital traits! Money merely detracts from the pursuit of success by providing distraction, temptation, and corruption. Therefore the marketer’s illegitimate claim that money is tantamount to success can be easily disproved. There is no elevator to success – you have to take the stairs.
Similarly, popularity and fame are hardly ever synonymous with success. Mind-numbing advertisements that are incessantly flaunted to Americans have become ingrained into memory and habit, altering the accepted definition of success into something shame-worthy. “Success” has been sadly commercialized to represent fame and popularity. Ironically, the most well-liked and popular people often have less confidence, talent, and freedom than those who choose to follow the compass of their hearts instead of the mainstream culture. In the words of Tony Long, a journalist for Wired News, “What is a hipster, after all, other than a successful slave to the dictates of the pop culture police?” A “hipster” is merely a mindless conformist locked in a hopeless struggle to keep up with the current fads. This commercialized vision of success has already extinguished the originality in most Americans and turned us into a nation of allegorical sheep. Contrary to the popular myth, money does not buy happiness or make a successful person.
When a person allows his mind to be restrained by mainstream television, magazines, and the internet, becoming successful is an impossible task. Fortunately, there is a way to stop this disgraceful masquerade before all Americans end up deprived of their wool—or worse—sent to the slaughterhouse.
In order to return to the traditional definition of success, Americans must cast off the lifestyle that they have been force-fed and build a better one! Rather than using money and popularity as the method to achieve the ever-so elusive success, Americans should seek simpler, more effective solutions that might not be obvious at first glance. Ralph Waldo Emerson gave priceless insight when he wrote:
To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.
Emerson’s quote provides a paradigm of success—a model to be admired and strived for. Emerson teaches that learning to appreciate the subtleties in life can make it that much more enjoyable and interesting. In addition, volunteering time and energy to good causes, like helping the community, not only benefits others, but brings happiness and satisfaction. Furthermore, learning how to act respectably and admirably in difficult situations can make life smoother by helping to avoid unnecessary conflicts and spark lifelong friendships. Moreover, learning patience and developing leadership skills can help one to gain a better understanding of life, make well-informed decisions, and form healthy opinions – all of which are essential to becoming a successful person. In the words of Bill FitzPatrick, founder of the American Success Institute, a successful person is “strong when toughness is required and, at the same time, patient when understanding is needed.” It is this kind of sound judgment and reasoning that sets the exceptionally successful people apart from the mediocre.
At this point, a reader may be thinking “Wow! It takes all that to be truly successful? Maybe I’m not meant to be successful.” or “This ‘success’ thing is just too much work. Is it worth it?” Well, to answer these questions in brief: yes. It is not easy to become successful and hardly anyone is truly successful – but it is a noble goal to strive for. Just like everything else in life, becoming successful takes practice; no one becomes a success overnight. With courage and hope our society can forget the marketer’s inadequate definition of success and work to attain true success by modeling respect, appreciation, integrity, and patience – the keys to happiness and success.

Works Cited
FitzPatrick, Bill. "Action Principles." American Success Institute. 12 Dec 2006 <>.
Long, Tony. "You Say You Want a Revolution?" [Podcast entry] The Luddite. 06 July 2006. 12 Dec 2006 <,71096-0.html>.
Waldo, Ralph Waldo. "Philosophy of Teaching." UW. 12 Dec 2006 <>.


The Keyhole Method
While English instructors use various means to teach students how to write a short expository essay of 500 to 1000 words, one popular technique is called the "Keyhole Method." By imagining what an old-fashioned keyhole looks like—a large, round center with a funnel shape on top and an inverted funnel shape on the bottom—the student-writer can "picture" the relationship of the three major divisions of the expository essay: the introduction (funnel shape on the top), the body (round center), and the conclusion (the inverted funnel shape on the bottom). By analyzing the introduction, the body, and the conclusion, the novice can better understand the three parts of the five-paragraph expository "keyhole" essay and how those parts work together effectively to communicate a writer's ideas.

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The IntroductionThe first section of the essay, the introduction, consists of a single introductory "funnel" paragraph which presents the subject of the essay first and then, gradually, narrows that subject before introducing the thesis statement—the essay's controlling idea—near the end of the paragraph; the thesis presents an attitude toward the subject and, ideally, a three-part plan of development. The subject of the essay should be fairly narrow even as it is introduced; for instance, if the topic involved "Unusual Pets," then the paragraph could begin with a statement such as, "Most people would agree that having a bear as a pet surely presents many interesting problems for the owner." The paragraph would not begin with the general subject of "pets" or with "bears." The sentences following this opening statement would then, gradually, narrow the discussion before presenting a thesis statement at or near the end of the introduction. An appropriate thesis on this same subject of "unusual pets" might be, "Bears make horrible pets because they are loud, dirty, and dangerous." This thesis presents the subject (bears as pets) and an attitude toward that subject (that they are horrible pets); it also adds, significantly, a three-part plan of development—the climactic order of "loud" (important), "dirty" (more important), and "dangerous" (most important). After the presentation of the thesis at the end of the introduction, the first body paragraph follows.
The Body
Section two of the essay, the body, consists of three "well-rounded" (well-developed) paragraphs, each beginning with its own topic sentence that, ideally, reveals the organization not only of the essay and but also of the paragraph it introduces; development of the body paragraphs should be organized, thorough, and unified. The first body paragraph of the "Bears" essay would begin with a topic sentence such as, "One important reason that bears are horrible pets is that they are dirty." This topic sentence reveals its connection (unity) with the essay's thesis and it reveals the body section's organization (climactic order). The topic sentences of the next two body paragraphs would reveal similar aspects of unity and order; ideally, they could also reveal the order of the paragraphs that they introduce. For example, the topic sentence of the third body paragraph might read, "However, the most important reason that bears make horrible pets is that as they grow larger, they present an increasing danger to their owners." Such a body paragraph would be developed and organized according to examples that follow a chronological pattern. In addition to being well-organized, each of the body paragraphs must contain facts, details, and examples that adequately develop the subject introduced in the topic sentence. Of course, unity is a must in the body paragraphs: no information should be introduced in the paragraph unless it directly supports the paragraph's topic sentence. After the third body paragraph, the writer is ready to conclude the essay with an "inverted-funnel" paragraph.
The Conclusion
The essay's third and final section, the conclusion, essentially reverses the process followed in the introduction; the conclusion consists, first, of a restated thesis statement and, second, of sentences following the restated thesis which present a broadening discussion of the subject of the essay before a closing statement is written. By restating the thesis, the conclusion presents once again the essay's subject: it brings the subject "full-circle"—just as the keyhole image suggests. In this way, the reader is reminded of the essay's controlling idea, what the writer has been trying to inform or to persuade the reader about. Again, as if the introduction were turned upside down, the conclusion ends in the same way that the introduction began: with a gradually "generalized" presentation of the essay's subject. A closing statement might read, "Bears, then, are not only unusual pets to have, but their three outstanding attributes would probably place them at the bottom of the list of unusual pets to own."
So, the introduction, the body, and the conclusion of the five-paragraph expository "keyhole" essay work together effectively to communicate a writer's ideas. The image of the keyhole can remind the writer about the relationship that the three major parts of the essay share. By adhering closely to the Keyhole Method at first, the student lays a solid foundation from which to build more creative expository essays. Writing instructors can rely on the Keyhole Method to convey to student writers the basic elements of sound essay writing: Unity, Development, and Organization.
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