But I didn’t have a ready answer. I had to admit that I had never thought through my personal definition of success.
Sure, I had some ideas swirling around in my head, vague notions with scraps of details. But nothing organized or integrated.
At that moment, a quote I had heard years before flashed into my mind: “When you’re climbing the ladder of success, make sure it isn’t leaning against the wrong wall.” I was working hard toward goals but I hadn’t really thought enough about whether they were the right goals.
Embarrassed, I resolved at that moment that I would figure out what success means to me, personally.
Maybe you would like to join me in this exercise.
After all, most of us want to be “successful,” but how will we know if we are without a crystal clear idea of what success is for us?
Achieving success without knowing what it means to you is like trying to find a friend’s house when you don’t know the address. How will you know which way to go, and how will you know when you arrive?
Having challenged myself to thoughtfully answer the question, I had to figure out where to start.
Of course, research.
I began looking at what scholars, philosophers and other brainiacs have said on the subject of success. I believe in learning from the giants.
I had to be careful, though, because I wanted to learn from these smarties, not copy them. I couldn’t lose sight of the fact that my goal was to craft my personal definition of success.
This is the best of what I learned.
Definitions Of Success
Earl Nightingale, considered by many “the Dean of Personal Development,” has a simple, but insightful, definition of what success is: “The progressive realization of a worthy goal.”
American author and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar said this:
“Success means doing the best we can with what we have. . . Success is a personal standard, reaching for the highest that is in us, becoming all that we can be.”
This is another quote along the same line from an unknown author:
”Success is not about external things. Money, power and fame are results, byproducts that come from who you are. The true definition of success is: To Become the Person You Are Capable of Becoming.”
One of the most often-quoted definitions of success comes from 19th-century American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson. This is where Waldo is on the subject of 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 beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a little 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 the meaning of success.”
Here are some further thoughts from a modern day personal development expert, Canadian author Robin Sharma:
What’s the point of having success but failing at Significance? Yes, chase your dreams and rise to lofty heights in the world. But please remember: greatness comes from living for a cause larger than you. And leaving our world better than you found it.
Dave Kekich, author of Kekich’s Credos, has this simple but powerful definition: “You’re successful when you like who and what you are.”
Robert Allen Zimmerman (you know him as Bob Dylan) has chimed in on the subject too: “What’s money? A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do.”
More Definitions of Success
Here are some more personal definitions of success by some very smart, if not famous, modern business people . . .
As you see, the giants did not let me down. These quotes are full of brilliant insights.
The next step in the process of developing my personal definition of success was thinking about this wisdom and integrating it with my own thoughts and experiences.
In my next post, I will tell you what I came up with, what success means to me. Be ready to add your personal definition of success in the comment section.