Shell writes about success

By Page H. Gifford

In his latest foray into writing, Forney Shell discusses success in his new book Having a Successful Life: No Permission Needed. He wrote it as an inspiration for others and makes some solid points along the way. He writes it in a fictional format with two people, Mr. Thomas, the older mentor, and the young college-age narrator. Shell puts himself in both roles, looking back at youth and the present with age and wisdom.

The characters question and discuss the fine points of being successful while defining success itself. The young narrator learns that success can change people. Thomas explains that drifting away from early relationships is inevitable. It is growing and moving away from what has become stagnated. It also means that leaving it and returning after becoming successful gives one a new perspective. These are some of the choices we make along the way.

Regarding self-esteem, which is the most common element involved in success, “the drive for success is sabotaged by early conditioning that teaches children limits that don’t exist.” Lacking self-esteem only motivates people to find reasons that create obstacles to success. This is often a basic truth few recognize. Paralyzing fear is a result and operating on it affects innovation and decisions. Understanding failure is important but finding a solution is paramount. Shell himself, in the epilogue, acknowledges how he dealt with failure. He had three children with his first wife but they drifted apart. His second marriage was in shambles when he discovered his wife had a mental illness. After the marriage ended, financially and emotionally devastated, Shell reminded himself of his strength and resiliency and was able to move on with his life.

Shell’s life is a reflection of many who have overcome adversity to become successful. His mother never finished high school and married his father when she was fifteen. His father was nineteen when they married and never went beyond high school. His mother was sixteen when she had him and then had a couple of other children. Shell labeled his economic existence as lower-middle class with a close-knit family unit. Yet seeing his environment for what it was and his parents working hard for little compensation made him set goals for his future as an engineer.

“You are born with everything you need to be successful,” he said. “I set my goals, not those set by others, and I decided what success is and set my goals accordingly.” Shell planned to study electrical engineering but after one semester he realized it wasn’t for him. Yet, still wanting a career in engineering, he took a job making electrical cables for aircraft simulators. From there he got his associate’s degree at 27, his bachelor’s at 48, and his master’s at 53. During his time working as an engineer, he contributed to the designs of the space shuttle and the moon lander. He retired from Boeing Aircraft as a senior research design engineer. Nowadays, at 82, he owns and operates his travel agency Pan Piper Travel, proving you are never too old to have new goals.

His life had setbacks. Though his first two marriages ended in divorce, his third marriage lasted 25 years until his wife, Judy, died from cancer. And his daughter died at 26 of a rare blood disease.

Belief in himself helped him to overcome life’s challenges.

“I learned to take responsibility, to own my successes, failures, actions, and consequences,” he said. He added that when solving a problem, focus on the solution, not on placing blame.

If you ask anyone if they would live the same life all over again, as imperfect as it may have been in some moments, most will say yes. Shell is an example of a quiet, reflective but also easy-going person who has triumphed over what would have put most over the edge.

Shell also talks in his book about communication and keeping an open mind, listening, and understanding another point of view.

“It might be hard to believe but someone else might have a better idea than yours.” He wraps up by saying that everyone has to decide what is success for themselves though it can be defined as anything and not necessarily what we believe it to be.

“Everyone is different so I don’t claim it works for you or anyone,” he said. 

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