Voted ‘Most Likely to Succeed’

Published 2:00 pm Wednesday, August 10, 2022

I was voted “Most Likely to Succeed” my senior year in high school. I occasionally wonder if that came true.

My high school does not exist any more. It was absorbed in consolidation more than 30 years ago in Newton County.

The ones we thought would advance and excel in politics have done so — one served as an aide to the U.S. Senate majority leader and held other state political spots; two have served in county seats for years, and likely could remain there in perpetuity if they want.

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The ones we voted most popular, most handsome/beautiful, most well-rounded, etc., have all seemed to stay in those categories. The MLTS nod I received was shared with a girl who became an engineer and — by my assessment — has been pretty successful. She is not wealthy, but she has accomplished a great deal for an engineer who works in a state agency.

When I was graduating high school, I had big plans. I had it all mapped out. I would attend Southern Miss, where I had close to a full ride in academic scholarships. I would get my degree in graphic design (commercial art, back then) and insert myself deep within the highly-competitive world of illustrative advertising. If I was one of the top half-dozen talents in the country — which I confidently thought I would be — I could make six figures by the end of my second year in the field. If I stayed competitive, I could feasibly retire comfortably before age 40. Then I could focus on painting, music and raising a family.

But reality hit me in the face like a brick.

I discovered quickly that I could not float through college academically like I had in high school. I had never really had to apply myself, and USM didn’t play that way. Though raised with a good work ethic, I was lazy when it came to school work and didn’t think my presence was required in class. After a year, I lost all my scholarships and was “invited to leave” the Honors College.

I worked four part-time jobs until I could get a full-time gig. Oddly enough, it was graphics related and I did well at it. In no time, I was making six figures a year. Unfortunately, two of those figures were to the right side of the decimal point.

Fast forward to age 30. I was married, with our third child on the way. I had turned down management positions with the company I was still with, in order to attend seminary and become a pastor. This time, my head was screwed on straight in regard to academics and I did just fine. I finished my bachelor’s and master’s degrees by age 34. When I was 36, I became one of the highest-paid pastors in the part of the country where I served. Financially, I was finally “succeeding.”

But just a few years later, I was divorced, jobless and without a ministry, wondering what happened and struggling to hold my head above water. But God is gracious and merciful.

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

I do not have all the things I was sure I would have by this age. Now past 50, I am nowhere close to retirement. My ministry and my “accomplishments” don’t look like I thought they would. But God has worked in the middle of all my mess, and I am tremendously blessed.

I wish I had space here to tell you about it all, but I’ll have to sum it up. I may not have fulfilled my classmates’ ideas of what it meant to be successful, but I am well aware of my blessings and I am grateful for where I am.

In my mind, that’s God-given success.

Brett Campbell can be reached at