Ralph Waldo Emerson is very familiar to fans of Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich and Law of Success.
His Poem about Success is the best description of success I have ever read.
Here is what Emerson's Wikipedia page says about him:
Ralph Waldo Emerson (May 25, 1803 – April 27, 1882) was an American essayist, lecturer, and poet, who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century. He was seen as a champion of individualism and a prescient critic of the countervailing pressures of society, and he disseminated his thoughts through dozens of published essays and more than 1,500 public lectures across the United States.
Emerson gradually moved away from the religious and social beliefs of his contemporaries, formulating and expressing the philosophy of Transcendentalism in his 1836 essay, Nature. Following this ground-breaking work, he gave a speech entitled The American Scholar in 1837, which Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. considered to be America's "Intellectual Declaration of Independence".
Emerson wrote most of his important essays as lectures first, then revised them for print. His first two collections of essays – Essays: First Series and Essays: Second Series, published respectively in 1841 and 1844 – represent the core of his thinking, and include such well-known essays as Self-Reliance, The Over-Soul, Circles, The Poet and Experience. Together with Nature, these essays made the decade from the mid-1830s to the mid-1840s Emerson's most fertile period.
Emerson wrote on a number of subjects, never espousing fixed philosophical tenets, but developing certain ideas such as individuality, freedom, the ability for humankind to realize almost anything, and the relationship between the soul and the surrounding world. Emerson's "nature" was more philosophical than naturalistic; "Philosophically considered, the universe is composed of Nature and the Soul."
"Man is his own star." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Probably no writer has so profoundly influenced American philosophy and literature, as did Emerson. Known as The Father of Transcendentalism, he was the focal point of a small group of intellectuals reacting against the orthodoxy of the established religions of his era.
As an active lecturer in the early 1830s, he delivered a number of landmark lectures, most notably among them - Compensation and Self-Reliance, in which Emerson fervently declares man's inherent divinity. By positing that the way to realization lay solely within, man can be fulfilled only through one's own "self-induced and self-devised efforts."
Marked by a deep compassion and insight, Compensation and Self-Reliance rings like a clarion-call - one Emerson intoned steadily throughout his life. Though his last years were marked by a decline in his mental powers, his reputation as one of the outstanding figures of American letters was all but assured by the time of his death.
"What is success? 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 the 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."