Success is a highly personal thing.
We all have our own definition of what success is and how to get it. So what is success? Is success actually a measurement tool? You know the tool that proves if you hit the goals you are setting? Example: I want to lose 20 pounds or I want to increase my income by $20K or I want to be married or have children, or land 10 new clients, etc. Well in this article, I want to dig into exactly what success is. Please share your thoughts in the comments, I would love to hear your definition of success and what it means to you.
Let’s start with some formal definitions and then I will share my definitions and why I define them the way I do.
Dictionary.com defines success like this…
- the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors; the accomplishment of one’s goals.
- the attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like.
- a performance or achievement that is marked by success, as by the attainment of honors:
The play was an instant success.
- a person or thing that has had success, as measured by attainment of goals, wealth, etc.:
She was a great success on the talk show.
- Obsolete. outcome.
The British Dictionary definitions for success…
- the favourable outcome of something attempted
- the attainment of wealth, fame, etc
- an action, performance, etc, that is characterized by success
The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines success like this…
- obsolete : outcome, result
- degree or measure of succeeding favorable or desired outcome; also: the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence
- one that succeeds
Okay, why the definitions and why am I exploring this topic?
Well, to be honest, there are several reasons. Some are for selfish personal reasons because as an almost 20-year business owner I have seen a fair amount of what society would call… success and failure. In a time of feeling more on the failing side of the equation, I started seeking what is REAL success. From a non-selfish perspective and on my selfish journey I realized that most of my career has revolved around getting results for clients and so my mind was also thinking that my goal was to help others reach more success. Hense the business Success Movement.
Over the last year or two, I have been doing some research and deep exploration of success.
Early on I focused on business success because I thought if I could turn my business around I would get over my frustration and to be honest… because the market changed and my business model was unscalable, I fell into a two-year dark depression. I had a great wife, a great child, a nice home, 3 meals a day, a business that was supporting me for 15 years so what did I have to be depressed about? Well, my original thoughts as I mentioned were business related. So I thought, let’s get to work fixing the business.
Here is the definition I created around Business Success or maybe it was Entrepreneurial Success. I first started by defining what business was. A Business is a system which is run, mostly by other people (managers & employees), to produce a socially needed value (product/service) that can be sold at a profit. Once I had this dialed in defining business success was easier and I came up with 6 things needed to create business success and here they are…
6 Things Deliver Business (or Entrepreneurial) Success…
- Product/Service – a NEED society wants and sees a value in.
- Profitability – easily paying yourself, your employees, and expenses and then having at least 5-20% of revenue to be used for investing in future growth (either within the company or often outside the company).
- Systems / Processes – documented/teachable/practiced ways to… 1. create a product/service, 2. to get clients, 3. to service customers, and 4. to get paid.
- Employees (Mgt) – people (not you) efficiently “working” the systems to deliver products/services to the customer.
- Giving Back – the ability and followthrough to give back in time, money and resources to help other businesses and the community at large (both before the sale of the business and in the owner’s new life post-sale).
- Exit/Succession – the last stage in business is to exit. Everyone exits, but only successful owners cash out and walk away happy, feeling accomplished, compensated well, that their people were rewarded for their help, that the business/employees were going to continue to thrive and grow and that the owner had a new sense of purpose and a new life they were excited and engaged to move into (post-sale).
So you will notice one thing most of the definitions listed above focus heavily on the attainment of wealth and fame.
In my business definition, I have profitability which is part of this the normal definition society typically thinks of. In my mid-life, pushing 50, and after some big “failures” I was starting to reevaluate what success truly was or at least what I wanted my second act to become in my more mature life. I added two things that few solopreneurs talk about and even some larger organizations overlook – 1. Giving Back, and 2. Exit and/or Succession Planning.
You see for me after my struggles I wanted more out of life and I wanted to help others. Giving back helps me find purpose instead of just doing what I love for money and being greedy about it. Next was my thoughts on building a way to cash out and retire from my business. In this “second act,” I am focused on building a business that means something to society, not just myself. I and trying to build it on a business model that can scale almost a franchise model of sorts.
So I am starting with the end in mind and have found that although building a business that works without me is a lot of work, building a positive force in the world that I can pass on (sell) to someone to continue to bring that positivity into the world is where my head is at and what I want to accomplish.
Now let’s talk about personal success. I have a long-time business friend that recently asked me what is my definition of success. She mentioned her purpose was proving it was more than profitability or wealth. So setting the question up like this took me here…
What is Personal Success
I think personal success is a little different than business success.
To me, personal success is inwardly focused first. It is finding peace and love with one’s self and then with humanity. It is mastering one’s emotions – being okay with “bad emotions” like sadness, fear, anger and letting them pass through you, but trying to purposely fuel your mind with “good emotions” and habits like empathy, contentedness, joy, peace, love, and happiness.
Real success, in my opinion, is finding (or creating) more love and positivity in your life than hate and negativity. Maybe the next level of success is exposing others to this idea to help them reach their own enlightenment, happiness, and “success”. Or maybe it is just loving those that society deems unlovable.
You see as I evolve and age I am looking deeper for what I define as success. I think you can have business success without what I am calling personal success, but maybe real success is only happiness. In our crazy world, today happiness is hard to find. We try to buy happiness. We try to work for happiness in our career or business. But the truth is the more we make, get, or do does not bring us real lasting happiness but rather temporary happiness.
I think to find and live in a true state of enlightenment, we must first find personal success because then we will be able to enjoy our business success with gratitude, contentedness, love, and a deep happiness.
This may sound very woo-woo especially on a business site, but if you are honest with yourself and drop your ego, humans all want the same things… love, happiness, family, friends, a home, a rewarding career, and then stuff. Sadly we start working the list backwards and go after the “stuff” first, then the career to get the stuff and we think the career will bring us all the other things. I think if we started with love and work the list the way I originally mentioned we would create amazing lives for ourselves.
Simon Sinek mentioned in his book, Start With Why, the idea of Success vs Achievement. In this idea he states…
Achievement is measurable (money and tangible factors). Success is a feeling or a state of being.
So this really strikes a chord with me. I think we confuse “success” with achievement as a way to measure things or our status or our accomplishments. When in reality I agree “success” is a FEELING or a STATE OF BEING. I think it is tied to finding your purpose in life and what you are here to do and why you personally make a difference in this world and the value you bring to it.
Maybe I over think things, or maybe I am on to something. Here are some questions to think about…
- What are your thoughts on success?
- What is your definition of success?
- Do you think business success and personal success are different?
- Do you think success has to be related to wealth and achievement or is it bigger than that?
Share your thoughts in the comments.
I look forward to hearing your take and definition of success.
Photo by Rennett Stowe