The Way We Think About Success Is Broken
The dictionary describes success as, the accomplishment of an aim or purpose, the attainment of popularity or profit, or a person or thing that achieves desired aims or attains prosperity.
I would argue that while these three definitions are accurate up to a point they are mostly personal and material — not societal.
There Are Two Forms Of Success
The first, and most agreed on form of success, is society’s definition of success. If you’re seen to be successful by a large segment society then you’ve made it.
You have a wall of awards, monetary or material possessions, and media accolades all confirm society’s impression that you’re successful.
How you got there is of little importance.
But how can Taylor Swift, or Katie Perry be considered successful when other singers just good or better are not?
The second form of success is personal success. Are you a success in your own mind?
Did you set goals and accomplish them regardless of the kinds of goals they were? Did you set out to be a good parent? A good friend?
Did you sacrifice for others without them knowing it?
Can you sit back and bask in the glow of your success?
If you’re the only one who knows those sacrifices can you truly be considered successful?
By whom? You? Isn’t that a little narcissistic?
The Missing Definition of Success
In my opinion the missing definition is the feeling of success. No awards. No accolades. No media cameras and flashbulbs.
Just that internal feeling that you alone did something one or more times that made you a better member of society.
In college basketball we were not allowed to hit the showers until we’d made ten free throws in a row.
After completing 90 minutes of hard practice beforehand I was definitely in need of that shower.
As you might imagine I worked very hard at perfecting that goal.
I wanted to get that done as soon as possible.
How many times did I get to nine in a row and miss? — Probably too many to count.
Sometimes I was the first to hit the showers and sometimes the last. But that small success paid off in larger successes during games played.
One small success often leads to larger successes.
Some Final Thoughts
I believe that success, like art, is in the eye of the beholder. I see people every day that I would consider very successful while others might not notice.
The definitions created by society keep many deserving people out of the success arena. Yet they can and should be considered successful.
Take some time today to observe those around you. Each person we meet is successful in his or her own way at something.
Take a moment to acknowledge their success.