What Does Success Mean to You?

I was walking briskly with a client between buildings on the campus. He told me he’d lost five pounds will all the running around he did all day. He said, “I never feel as if I accomplish anything. I want to be successful!”  (He might have said I need to be successful. I no longer remember.)

I asked him this question, “What does success mean to you?”

He stopped in his tracks. “I don’t know. I haven’t thought about it.” He shook his head and continued walking, “I need to shepherd all these projects to completion. I want my people to feel good about their work.”

I waited for him to continue speaking, but he walked a little faster. It seemed to me that he was thinking.

I said, “My legs are shorter. Please slow down a little.” He did. “What constitutes your success?” I asked.

That’s when he stopped again. He shook his head. “I can’t answer you yet. I’m not sure I can think about it yet.”

“Okay,” I agreed. “I’ll suggest some things later for you.” We continued to our meetings.

Success means something different to everyone. My definition of success is not yours.

Here’s a problem that stumped my client. Up until then, he’d thought about his pay and stature in the company as his definition of success. It’s not that he focused only on material things, but he used our societal norms to define his success. He was a terrific middle manager in his late 40s. He had his eyes set on the executive suite. And, he was so busy that he no longer had dinner with his children, took his wife on date-nights, or had time on the weekend for his hobbies.

He was professionally successful and personally miserable. On reflection, he decided he was not successful.

For me, success is about living my values (primarily enhancing my learning and having fun with everything I do). To achieve that, I challenge myself physically and intellectually. I create days and weeks of “balance” where I decide how much time to devote to what, and weeks where I focus on my business and weeks where I focus on vacation. I’m pretty happy and successful right now. I can choose again if I find I’m not successful.

I use reflection, a form of retrospective to see where I am in respect to success. I do have some quantitative measures such as what I’ve published and revenue, and qualitative measures that relate to my clients and family.

I have found that when I define my personal definition of success, I am more successful at work.

That is the question this week: What does success mean to you?

5 thoughts on “What Does Success Mean to You?

  1. Hans Hartmann

    Ok, here is my answer to my personal definition of success. It refers to me personally. ( I am 66 now and in retirement.)
    The biggest success which I consider is one where I am not responsible for, or maybe just partially responsible. My three kids seem to be happy persons, have good jobs and the grand children can be happy with their parents. That is mainly an achievement of my wife. My big deed was not to interfere and supplying confidence when there were any doubts about their capabilities.
    I never tried for the big career or the big money. Still my retirement money around 4000 € suffices to lead a comfortable life. I had different success stories like inventing and construction measurement devices. I am proud of having been accepted by the Japanese already after 1,5 years when the normal experience would be 4 years, as I once read. My students were happy and told me so. “Your lectures are the first ones that combine what we have learned in various other studies without being able to make the connection.
    Maybe I should be proud that I have never sold myself although bribery was usual in the countries that I was working with.
    I might be successful if I happen to finish my book :)
    But the main success for me is being content with my life. That is something I could also give as general advice. As my father told me: it is not important what you will work, it is important that you like what you are doing.
    Yes, being able to like what you are doing is the main key to be successful.

    1. johanna Post author

      Hans, how lovely. I suspect you had more to do with your children than you give yourself credit for, but that’s up to. That supplying confidence piece? That’s a necessary part of parenting, in my experience.

      Also, lovely testimonials about your teaching.

      That piece about satisfaction is key for me, also.

  2. Anton Viola

    Live healthy, love and support the people close to you, do not care about what others think of you, earn enough to be able to spend what you need. Status is nothing, too much money brings nothing.

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