Voted ‘Most Likely To Succeed’ – Daily Leader

I was voted “Most Likely to Succeed” my senior year in high school. I sometimes wonder if this has happened.

My school no longer exists. It was absorbed by consolidation over 30 years ago in Newton County.

Those we thought would progress and excel in politics did — one served as assistant majority leader in the US Senate and held other political positions in the state; two have held county seats for years and could probably stay there in perpetuity if they so choose.

The ones we voted most popular, best/beautiful, most complete, etc., all seemed to stay in those categories. The MLTS nod I received was shared with a girl who became an engineer and – in my assessment – was quite successful. She’s not rich, but she’s accomplished a lot for an engineer who works in a state agency.

When I graduated from high school, I had big plans. I had it all mapped out. I was going to attend Southern Miss, where I had almost a full scholarship round. I was going to get my degree in graphic design (commercial art, at the time) and insert myself deeply into the very competitive world of illustrative advertising. If I was one of the top six talents in the country — which I confidently thought I was — I could make six figures by the end of my second year in the business. If I stayed competitive, I could comfortably retire before 40. Then I could focus on painting, music and raising a family.

But reality hit me in the face like a brick.

I quickly discovered that I couldn’t make it through college like I had in high school. I had never really had to apply myself, and USM did not play like that. Although raised with a good work ethic, I was lazy when it came to schoolwork and didn’t feel like my presence was required in class. After a year, I lost all my scholarships and was ‘asked to leave’ Honors College.

I worked four part-time jobs until I could get a full-time position. Oddly enough, it was related to the graphics and I did well. Before long, I was making six figures a year. Unfortunately, two of these digits were to the right of the decimal point.

Fast forward to age 30. I was married, with our third child on the way. I had turned down leadership positions in the company where I was still in order to attend seminary and become a pastor. This time my head was screwed as far as academics were concerned and I was doing just fine. I finished my bachelor’s and my master’s at 34 years old. At 36, I became one of the highest paid pastors in the part of the country where I served. Financially, I was finally “successful”.

But a few years later, I was divorced, unemployed and without a ministry, wondering what had happened and struggling to keep my head above water. But God is merciful and merciful.

I have a good job. My family is fine. My first wife and I get along better than when we were married. I am married to a wonderful, pious woman. I will soon be (God willing) a grandfather for the first time.

I don’t have everything I was sure I had at that age. Now that I’m over fifty, I’m a long way from retirement. My ministry and my “achievements” are not what I thought. But God has worked through all my mess, and I’m so blessed.

I wish I had space here to tell you everything, but I’m going to have to summarize. I may not have realized my classmates ideas of what it meant to succeed, but I am well aware of my blessings and grateful for where I am.

In my mind, it’s a God-given success.

Brett Campbell can be contacted at

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