Question: What is Success?
Is success having a lot of money? If it is, than Jesus wasn’t a success and billionaires are.
Is success being famous? If it is, than is Kim Kardashian more successful than Francis Collins, the scientist who led the Human Genome Project? He is well known in his own right, but nowhere near as famous (nor as rich) as Kim Kardashian (or any of the Kardashians).
Is success achieving a high level of security? If it is, why does it seem that the most “secure” people feel so insecure that they pay fortunes to “secure” themselves? And what kind of security are we talking about, when our greatest insecurities are inside our own minds?
Is success achieving a great body? If it is, what is a great body? Is a great body a healthy body? Or is it a sexy body? Or, is it, a body that can run an ultramarathon? Or is it a body that turns heads at the beach?
I ask these questions to point out a few thoughts on the idea of success.
1. For most people, “success” is an undefined idea.
When success for you is undefined, you’ll have no objective way of determining whether you are actually succeeding, so, chances are, you won’t feel like a success. How can you when you don’t even know what success for you is? It’s possible to be deluded into thinking you’re successful simply because you believe it, and it’s possible to not care about achieving anything, but this blog is not for those two groups of people. I don’t think delusion nor apathy contributes to a good start or restart.
Another problem that arises, when the idea of success is not defined for us, is that we tend to misjudge the success or lack of success of other people. Like I asked at the start, is Jesus successful? Is Kim Kardashian? Who is more successful? Well it really depends on one’s definition of success. When we are confused about what success is to us, it becomes very possible that we end up admiring and emulating the “successful path” of someone, only to find that it does not lead to the kind of success you actually desired.
Application: Define Success for Yourself.
2. Different people have different ideas of success – and that’s not a bad thing. That’s actually a good thing!
Just a little under 2years ago, my idea of success drastically changed. What changed it? Learning that my wife was pregnant. What did it change to? It switched my focus from the success of David to the success of my family. So even between a younger and older me, the success was seen very differently. So imagine what the rest of the world looks like? There are an infinite number of goals to pursue, and success would mean achieving those goals.
This leads us now to a simple definition of success: the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.
Because we all have different aims, we will have different accomplishments. Comparing accomplishments isn’t the name of the game. Instead, we should be comparing our accomplishments to aims we are trying to achieve.
This is why Application 1 is very important. You need to define success for yourself, basing it on the aims you want to achieve.
Application: After defining Success for yourself, judge your progress by your chosen objective, not random comparisons with other people, and especially not by artifical social media standards.
Defining Success for Yourself: Begin with the End in Mind
Here’s a link to his book, in case you want it. You can jump to the chapter about Beginning with the End in Mind for a more detailed description of this concept. I highly recommend it.
This means, before you even jump into activity and philosophizing, start with a simple picture of the end you would like to achieve. For me, what really helps is formulating my Objectives and Key Results for a particular area I want to succeed in. Bellow is a great video on OKRs:
It’s long but worth understanding. Success is worth understanding.
Don’t worry if at the end of your defining, you don’t have an impressive-sounding definition of success. What is important is that you are able to be honest, and that what you’ve identified is truly that which you want to accomplish.
I don’t rush this process in my life. It pays to take the time to make sure that our efforts are really going to things that matter.
Two powerful tools that help me when defining success for myself, and probably the tools I use most, is the humble pen and paper combination. My next post, to kick-off the section on Tools for Success, is about the powerful simplicity of a blank sheet of paper and a pencil.
I love Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAG), but I also have embraced Small, Simple, Smart Achievements (SSSA) which are basically micro-steps that progress towards a bigger goal.
For example, a physical BHAG for me is to achieve 14% body fat. An SSSA for me would be to just wake-up at 4:30am, followed by another SSSA of just showing up at the gym. These small, simple, and smart achievements are easier to do and provide some satisfaction from their accomplishment.
Note: If you have any questions you would like to ask, you have three ways to get in touch with me: