Don’t Let the Dictionary Define Your Success


When I was in college my friends and I would go out to parties. Each of us had a different idea of a successful evening. For some, it was to find a new girl to share a bed with. For others, it was to test how much alcohol it was possible to drink in an evening. A few wanted to dance. Another wanted to show off. I was satisfied if I could hang out with friends and maybe even get a girl to notice me. We all were looking for success.

What is success?

When you define it for someone else, it is easy to see. My father was a doctor, my grandfather was a doctor, my great-grandfather was a doctor, now that’s success, right? So often your success is defined by a world that doesn’t even know you. Why would you allow a stranger to define your goals? Who are you trying to impress? The worst possible scenario is to become incredibly successful at someone else’s dream.

Webster’s dictionary defines success as:

  • the fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect, or fame

  • the correct or desired result of an attempt

Those could be two very different things.

Lets look at the first.

What is wealth? Depends on where in the world you live. Sometimes we feel wealthy but moving to a new community will quickly make you desire more. There is always someone with more than you.

What about fame? How famous do you need to be? Well known in your community or around the world? Is it possible that at some point more fame doesn’t bring more joy? Maybe, but that depends on your objective.

How about respect? Men seem to be more preoccupied with respect than women, but both  have a desire for it. There is a basic respect that we expect from our family, friends and colleagues. After that, it gets more complicated. Doing things you don’t enjoy to get the respect of someone you don’t like, can quickly bring you down a road you don’t want to travel.

What about that second definition?

“the correct or desired result of an attempt”

Obviously this too can lead you the wrong way if you are attempting the wrong thing. However, when you take the time to set goals that are truly yours you can succeed and be happy about it.

Here are 3 tips to be successful at whatever you choose:

#1. Forget what others say.

Only you can do what is right for you. It’s OK to seek counsel. It’s great to find people who have done what you want to. At the end of the day though, it has to be what you want. No one can make that decision for you.

#2. Attempt the right thing

Once you know what success is to you, it will become clear what you need to attempt. Your chances of success are much higher when its your goal.

#3. Define a desired result

Most things are not all or nothing. Many times what we learn is valuable. Sometimes just getting that experience and finding what doesn’t work, is success. No matter what, keep moving forward.

What is success to you? Let me know in the comments. Thank you so much for reading. If you like this, share it. Having you as a reader is my success!

  • Joe C

    I would say success is all subjective, it means something different to everybody. For me success is that feeling of pride that ice accomplished something I set my mind to. It also means being able to provide for my family.

  • I think you nailed it Joe. You’re family is lucky to have someone who defines success like you do.

  • Vivian

    Doing what I love and feeling happy about it everyday! This is success:)

  • I couldn’t have said it better myself. I don’t think anyone could ask for more.