What is “Success” exactly?

Imagine this…

A guy with a great family, a high-paying high-profile job he enjoys, pots of money banked, wonderful friends and the golden touch with anything he decides to take up (learning a new instrument, sport, language…)

Got it?

As a society, we’d call that successful, right?

I mean, heck if someone has reached that point where everything in their life is golden, THAT should be the definition of success.

But let’s say he doesn’t believe it.

We think: “How can that be!? He has it all!”

They might actually feel empty, like they’re living in a 2-D world where nothing excites them any longer and they just run like a well-oiled clock.

They wake up, go to work, make pots of money easily in a job that they enjoy, come back to a great family, go on fabulous vacations, buy beautiful things…

Wash, rinse, repeat.

We ooh and aaah over them, but they feel listless in the glow of our admiration.

So what happens when they feel like they’ve plateaued? If that isn’t success, what is?

Success is what you define it to be

There is no tried-and-true formula for what success is.

It varies from person to person because success is what you define it to be.

Someone could make a million bucks a year, and not feel successful because they feel like they’ve seen it all and done it all.

When they decide to try something new, and ends up making $20,000 a year in something that is difficult and exciting, they could very well feel successful in that new job, just because they’ve changed their definition of success & has something to work towards, as well as changed their situation.

Success is not based on any one single factor

Some people measure in hard numbers — how much they make, how much they save, their net worth, bla bla bla.

Others, measure by how much they’ve grown.

Or how many risks they’ve taken and how many have succeeded.

Or simply just the pleasure of knowing that you’ve built something from scratch and millions of people love your product/service!

It isn’t just about saying: “Yeah I’m the President of Some Corporation. I’m by definition, successful.”

Just being in a role, a company, or making pots of money doesn’t make anyone automatically “successful”.

If you don’t feel it, then you aren’t.

Success is constantly changing your situation

Think of success as a sugar rush.

It’s a temporary feeling that makes you say: I am successful!…when you’ve made it.

I felt that way when I cleared my debt — I felt successful, but now, I am looking for the next level, the next high.

Example: I am now focusing on lowering my expenses and shopping smarter (perhaps cutting out meat for half of my meals per week), so that my money goes farther.

It’s the jumps you make from your starting position and status, to the next, that create those feelings of success.

You don’t necessarily have to always keep growing, and jumping either.

To be sure, a leap from being a clerk to a VP can make someone feel very successful — but sometimes, just staying where you are, can make you feel successful because of the nature of your industry and role.

The Pop Star Example:

A pop star that stays popular over the years is considered successful, even if she or he hasn’t necessarily increased in popularity or has spanned various industries.

Take Madonna: she is the Queen of Reinvention. She started in 1983, about 27 years ago, and she is still going today, as what I’d consider to be a popular singer.

Perhaps not as popular as Lady Gaga is at the moment, but the lasting and continuous success of such a long and fruitful musical career is nothing to sneeze at.

There were plenty of musical performers who have been left in her dust, fading in popularity over the years, but Madge still hangs on, even becoming a spokesperson and model for high-end designer brands.

THAT, is success in an industry that is so fickle, you could be hot one day, and out the next. (Anyone remember Sisqo who sang “Thong Song”, Vanilla Ice or MC Hammer?)

It is a fight to stay popular.

A challenge to reinvent, change and push yourself, rather than stagnate & flounder.

Once you’ve reached your level of success where everything seems to come easily to you, and life runs on clockwork, and you either feel bored or disenchanted.. then you aren’t successful any longer.

You need to push to the next level, because you’ve tasted success and it has faded.

You need another hit.

Success is just another word for Passion

Success is definitely what you define it to be, but if you have no idea what the source of your drive or motivation is, you cannot begin to define your own success.

I am not talking about numbers, such as making X amount per year, or rising into the ranks of the C-level executives.

It’s more touchy-feely and fuzzy than that, and it all boils down to: what do you care about the most — what makes you jump out of bed in the morning?

Is it Time? Freedom? Closing Deals? Creating something from scratch? Connecting and sharing with others?

Forget the money and the fame.

Think about what makes you tick, and start from there.

My Successes (both past & continuing):

  1. Finding love
  2. Clearing my debt & attaining financial freedom (emergency funds = great!)
  3. Feeling comfortable, even better, au naturel (no hair dye, makeup-less days, etc)
  4. Taking advantage of all the free time & not feeling guilty for it any more
  5. Loving that my life rolls up into 3 suitcases and 2 carryons
  6. Having the courage to leave a very stable, good job to be a risk-taking freelancer
  7. Connecting and becoming closer with my parents (finally!)

Those are my initial thoughts on what success means and some of my personal successes, what are some of yours?

About the Author

Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver. I cleared $60,000 in 18 months earning $65,000 gross/year. Now I am self-employed, and you can read more about my story here, or visit my other blog: The Everyday Minimalist.