Before I go into the details on how I judge success I would like to say that I am my own worst critic… and this is a good thing! Writing this particular blog post is a bit of a journey of self-discovery. Pulling my thoughts together here was both painful and therapeutic at the same time. I only hope that this post, as well as the other before and those yet to come, leave you with something positive.
So… success… I will try to start by establishing a baseline or perspective of what success is. Is success reaching a clear established goal? Is success where you or your organization rate versus your peers? Or, is success tied to happiness? Success is certainly not only linked to these general concepts. I will talk in general terms first, and then relate all this back to my personal view of success for myself. I think you will see that this topic is more subjective than objective.
The On-Line Business Dictionary (ww.businessdicionary.com) has a very “institutional” definition of success. The finer points of the definition touch upon time, parameters, goals, objectives, and tasks. Webster’s Dictionary defines success as “the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence”. On Yahoo Answers personal contributors use such words as live, choice, freedom, be yourself, achievement, dreams, fame, friends, honesty, security, and happiness. Perhaps the most famous and widely-acclaimed definition of success was penned by Ralph Waldo Emerson, who stated:
“The definition of success — To laugh much; to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affections of children; to earn the approbation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to give one’s self; to leave the world a little better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm, and sung with exultation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived — this is to have succeeded.”
I felt it was important to point out these different points of view and to make this critical point… Success is not found in how others define you, but is found in how you define yourself!
On a personal level, I do not see myself as successful. I have had successes in my life, most importantly being my family. I do not or cannot define my life as a success for many reasons, chief being that I fear that if I do see my life as successful, then satisfaction and contentment slips in. These are two of the biggest things I fear in my life! One of the downfalls of success, if attained, is not having all of the people that helped you reach success there to share it. Of course, I have my beautiful and loving wife and kids to share individual successes with, but when I do have “success” I often find myself thinking about the people I cannot share that success with. I understand that this is not necessarily the healthiest approach to life, but when life doesn’t follow the script we have laid out for ourselves, we find our ways to cope.
The way I view success in others, whether it be an individual, group, or entity can be summed up with one word, “integrity”. I have witnessed many people reach “success” under somewhat suspicious circumstances. What good is success if you took shortcuts to get there and cannot look at yourself in the mirror each morning? I think that is worse than failure. Second place? Hell, last place is more acceptable if I can say that I did it the right way, with integrity. That is how I view success externally. Don’t tell me about your successes… let your actions do all the talking!
So, as we set our next goal or face our next challenge, my personal advice is to accept the challenge with integrity and with as much sincerity and vigor as possible. Don’t let anyone define success for you, and always be your greatest and most vocal critic. Enjoy individual success, but never rest on your laurels. Keep pushing and try not to let so abject “success” be your driving force, and use self-reflection as a tool often. Don’t let life pass you by while admiring your own success. Happy Reading!