"Success is a personal standard - reaching for the highest that is in us -
becoming all that we can be."
How often have you heard someone state that a person they know,
or a business person, politician or whomever is a successful
I'm sure you have even said the same thing about a friend, colleague,
family member, an acquaintence or a neighbour. Does your declaration that
whomever you are talking about is the epitome of success so that no matter
to whom you speak, they will all, without hesitation, agree that you are correct?
Compared To What Standard
For far too many people, the issue of what constitutes success comes from
a variety of sources. Oftentimes, these sources highlight success in terms of
reaching the pinnacle of a large organization, or obtaining the highest scholastic
qualifications in a stated discipline, or an author in either the fiction or
non-fiction category that sells the most books in a specific time frame,
or a politician who has contributed to the development of legislation that
is viewed by political pundits and political power brokers as significant,
or to a business person who has risen to the status of a billionaire.
I'm sure you could list other people who have been deemed successful.
However, the point is this: the definition of success seems to be more of
what is defined by one's culture than an overarching definition that could
be applied to all.
Different Standards For Different People
The standard for success for a business person is often declared to be
comprised of several factors. Among these factors are the net worth
of the company; the product reach of the company; and the individual
income of the owner. In addition, there are also personal factors that
seem to dictate if the person is successful among which is the type and
size of the house in which they live, the type and cost of the car or cars
they own, the social organizations to which they either belong or are head
of, where they children, if any, attend famous schools, or what professional
designation their children hold, and visible signs of their financial donations
to community groups.
If you happened to be that person described above, would you be able
to state without a doubt that you have become successful in every aspect
The standard for success for an author, on the other hand, may be
different than that of a businessman. For example, an author of fictional
books may attain the status of success when he/she writes either a single
book, or a series of books, that surpasses a stated volume sold over
the course of a year and the amount of money that has been earned by
those sales. Success means, in this case, the total number of books sold
over a specified period of time. We often hear of success of an author
when their book appears on the New York Times bestsellers list.
The standard for success for a university student that desires to not going
complete their undergraduate studies but to also complete their doctorate
may be comprised of several components. The first component would
be to acquire sufficient grade points to complete the undergraduate degree
and to be accepted into a master's level program. The first success, the,
would be to move from one level to a higher level. The next component
would be for the student to not only complete their Master's Degree but
to also gain access to a doctoral program in their chosen field of study.
The next component of success would be the completion of their doctoral
program. Once all of these progressive steps have been completed, the
student could claim success.
Where Are We Left
In the above examples, it could be argued that each one demonstrates
the attainment of success. The question then is whether these kinds
of successes, in these referenced areas, preclude the rest of us who are
not tremendously wealthy, do not have a bestselling book,
or have not attained a doctorate degree? We may be precluded if
the definition of success in these above referenced areas is the only
standard of success. But, is this really what success means?
Standards For Success Revisited
Let me ask you this question: what is your personal definition of success?
Here's another question to consider: is your definition of success based on
what is culturally defined as success, or is it based on what your family
members view as success, or, is it what you personally believe is success?
Some people would have us believe
that the only true measure of success
is what can be seen or observed. That is, success is the amount of money
you have to do what you want to do when you want to do it; it is the size
and style of your home where the bigger house wins; it is the kind of expensive
cars you drive, or it is the number and quality of your possessions.
These defintions, in my view, are only cultural definitions, and as such
Yes, I did say worthless. The reason for my belief is simple.
It is my belief that there is not a singular definition of success that applies to
every person, in any situation, and at any given time. Each person not only
has the option but the right to decide what definition of success applies to
them in whatever they do or not do. Each person is an individual; each person
controls their own beliefs, thoughts and behaviors an, as such, makes the
rules that formulate the definition of success.
Some people would say that their life is successful because they are able
to provide for their families need, love
each family member, and do their
best to provide guidance surrounding various life issues that they will have
to deal with. Others would add to this personal definition by saying that they
will leave a lasting legacy not of money or property but of demonstrated love,
If you believe that success is filled with earthly treasures than you should
consider this. Every earthly treasure or possession, houses, cars and more
will someday vanish. Why? You will no longer possess them but somebody
else will. When you die,
you take nothing with you. Your heirs will comb
through your most valuable possessions or at least what you think are
valuable. They will keep some for themselves, some will be auctioned off
and others will simply be discarded.
The Final Definition of Success
On the other hand, when you leave a legacy of love, kindness, compassion,
caring and mentoring, your legacies remain and are carried on by others who
have benefitted from your life. What kind of possessions would you rather
leave to your family?
No one is saying that you can't own a beautiful home or a nice car or have
valuable possessions. But, what really needs to be said is that success doesn't
come by what you have but, instead, by what you do. Think about the legacies
that have been left by some of the most notable people you may know;
the legacy of a better country where each individual is just as valued as the
next. The people who have worked tirelessly to set in motion a health care
system that is available to all citizens where the rich sit next to the poor but
the medical quality is just the same. Think of those people who sacrificed
their lives by defending your country and its' freedoms and values.
Success is a word that has been slandered and misconstrued by those who
seek power and prestige over those who have not been able to acquire
what they have. These types of people are celebrated, written about and
buildings named after. But, I for one, celebrate those people who have
quietly lived their lives filled with compassion and caring for others often
times without regard for their own wellbeing. These type of people are the
true success stories; the real heroes that are invisible yet more worthy than
most seeking riches and fame.
Inspirational Quotes for Reflection:
"Everyone has the right, the means, and the responsibility to succeed on their own terms."
Success may or may not mean that you've acquired a lot. It does mean that you have become a generous person."
Robert H. Schuller
"Individual success is measured by what great work is accomplished, not by hours worked or what time employees arrive in the office."