Success is one of the most important concepts for humans. It shapes a lot of our activities, a lot of our perceptions and it drives us to do things we wouldn’t do, in “normal” contexts. We, humans, are striving to be successful. We spend time, energy, focus in order to achieve this state, or this position. As a matter of fact, is this a state? Or a position? How do you define success?
As I was trying to find a comprehensive definition for success this Sunday afternoon, browsing through my notes, I realized it will be very difficult. There are so many angles form which you can look at success. So many paths to it. So many rewards marking the milestone. So, how one could define success in a consistent way?
In order to do this, I came up with 9 definitions. I know the titles said “10 Ways To Define Success”, but bear with me. The tenth is your spot and it’s a very nice one, you’ll see.
Let’s take them one at a time. The order is also very important.
1. Success Means Loads Of Money
I’ve been there many times. I used to define success by the size of my bank account, or my possessions. To some extent, this definitions is still accurate. Money, or access to money, is important. Money can give you independence. Or freedom to move from one place of this planet to another.
But there are certain things that money can’t give you. For instance, health. Once your health has been seriously compromised, money can be of little help here. So, as I was advancing on my way to become successful, following obsessively money, I realized that they come at a cost.
And the first thing I had to “spend” in order to make money, was the time spent with my friends.
2. Success Means Loads Of Friends
When I realized that, I slowed down a little on the making money part, and moved towards relationships. In itself, this is a rather complicated process: relationships aren’t easy. I mean, those who can stand the challenge of time. True friendship requires hard work. You have to be there for the other.
In a few years, this area of my life was also balanced. I managed somehow to cure some of the friendships that were intoxicated by my “obsessive entrepreneurial syndrome” and also managed to take on board a few other friendships.
And that was the moment when I realized that, a part from friends, I also needed a family.
3. Success Means A Functional Family
So here I am trying to understand this mechanism as well. I tried not only once, but twice. And I tried as hard as I could. A functional family, from the patriarchal definition that we’re fed form early childhood, is even more hard work than just maintaining a friendship.
So, as I was tried a couple of times to create this type of “traditional” family, I realized the model in my head – the patriarchal one – was simply screwed up and I had to come up with a new model. A more flexible one. A model in which I can be in touch with my loved ones and support them, but still keep my freedom.
It took way longer than maintaining friendships (and even now you can safely call this “work in progress”) but, at some point, I realized this is not the “core” of it. There must be more to this “success” thingie.
4. Success Means Travel Around The World
When it dawned upon me that this world is bigger than my backyard, or my neighborhood, or my city, I decided to travel around the world. I did my first exit, selling the first company I created from scratch, and traveled around the world for (more or less) two years.
It was an exhilarating part of my life and I enjoyed it thoroughly. But, after a while, I got tired. Not physically tired, but tired of continuously moving, without a fixed spot to where should I return. So, I got back home.
After a while, I realized that success, although encompasses all there was written so far, may also mean something else: something about having your own identity.
5. Success Means Being Acknowledged
Or validated. Or, for other people, being famous. I never aimed for being famous (although, accidentally, I’ve been in the hot spot a few times) especially because it’s so much hard work to keep your head straight when you’re swayed back and forth by the waves of celebrity.
But beyond this shallow layer of celebrity, being acknowledged, or accepted, or validated for what you accomplished is a great thing. And it certainly helped me understand why I need comments on my blog, or genuine interactions on social media, or recognition for my work.
But once all this was working, again, the feeling that something was missing was there. Even bigger.
6. Success Means Being At Peace With Yourself
That emptiness inside couldn’t be filled with money, or friends, or family, or traveling, or validation. Because it was coming from the inside, not from the outside. It was something in me that I had to deal with. I won’t go into details, exposing the skeletons in my closet, because I know everybody has their own.
That’s how I got into spirituality. Not into the exotica, but into regular practice. I started to do yoga and to meditate. I still consider a big personal success that I still do this pretty much every single day. Being at peace with yourself means that everything described so far will fit nicely inside. No more gaps. no more empty spaces that need to filled.
But, as comforting and as soothing as this was, there was still work to do.
7. Success Means Leaving A Legacy
And I realized it wasn’t about me, specifically, but about what I stand for. About this things I create, the causes I support, the structures I build. It was about a legacy. I know it sounds very “big”, but try not to see it from that angle. A legacy can be what you leave into at least one person’s memory. Or heart.
It’s everything that defines you, everything that you created, everything that will be associated with your persona after you’ll no longer be here. And that made a very big shift in pretty much everything I started to do. From the projects I was undertaking to the people I was meeting.
And when I got to people, a new definition of success popped into my mind. And, then, of course, into my life.
8. Success Means Being Useful To Other People
I realized that one of the most rewarding way to see success is to be useful to other people. I had to go through some painful stages here (one of my skeletons at point 6 is that I don’t consider myself “good enough”, or that I should always keep a low profile).
But at the end of this process something very interesting happened: I understood how I can be of help to other people, from the mere act of replacing toilet paper in my latest company’s bathrooms, to providing business coaching and consulting to powerful entrepreneurs and managers.
It’s not the financial or psychological value of the act you did for somebody else, it’s the act itself.
9. Success Means Being Happy
And that finally led me to the definition I consider to be the most accurate (at least at this point of my life). I now define success as just being happy. It’s probably the foggiest definition of all, because happiness is such a custom byproduct of our lives: everybody has his own description and perception of it.
But it still holds true. Being happy may or may not have anything to do with money, with acknowledgement, with legacy, family or being useful to other people. Or it may have everything to do with all of them, at once.
Fact is, now I truly think that success just means being happy.
10. What’s Your Experience With The Definition Of Success?
You saw mine. It was a long journey, but it was just my journey. I’m curious about your way to define success.