What is Success, Really?
I know the definition of success, but I can’t tell you what it is because it’s my definition. The meaning of success is unique to each and every person. Some people want sports cars, some people want money, some people want love, some people just want less stress.
There are successful people who work on wall street and make lots of money. There are successful people who live in small remote villages who fish all day long and who are living their dreams. Most people don’t know what their definition of success is. That’s why they have so much uncertainty. That’s why they get caught up in trivial things.
If you haven’t thought about it yet, you have to devote an entire day to just sitting down and thinking “What do I really want out of life?”. It sounds simple, but most people just don’t do it. They don’t have the guts to admit what do I really want. I mean seriously and realistically listing what you want. Don’t say “I want to be rich”. That doesn’t mean anything. Rich could mean earning a ton of money but working 80 hour weeks. That’s probably not actually rich because you’re working too damn much. Rich could mean something completely different. Like owning a really big comic book collection. Both people are rich right? They have a lot of assets?
You’re going to have to do some deep soul searching. You have to try new things. You have to fail. You have to meet people who are doing what you want to be doing and ask them what is it like. There are a million questions to ask yourself. The most important question is “What would life be like if I didn’t have this dream come true?”. What would life be like if you didn’t get that really big comic book collection. I’m kind of joking, but it’s true, you need to think about the results and consequences. And I’m telling you this because your goals might require greater action than you think.
Do you need to move to another city or even another country to achieve your goals? Sometimes it matters a lot. Do you need to quit you job to ultimately be happy? See, this is why I never believed in asking other people for advice. Because who can really know what’s good for you? Only you. Nobody knows how important certain things are to you.
Some people will even reject your goals. They’ll tell you not to do things, especially if they are radically different. Sometimes they might be jealous, but the truth is they don’t think its right for them. Success is serious. It is what drives you. It is why you wake up in the morning. It is why you go to work everyday. It is important. That’s why you need to take the time out to figure out what it means to you. And just because you’ve done it once doesn’t mean you’re done. You have to re-evaluate the meaning of success periodically. Like every few years. Because your values will change. What’s your meaning of success going to be like after you finish school? After you get married? After you retire? It’s always going to change.
But that’s OK.
What Leads to Success?
Consider this story. It starts five years ago on a plane, on the way to a seminar in Los Angeles. In the seat next to me was a high school student, a teenager from a very poor family. She wanted to make something of her life. She asked me a simple question: “What leads to success?” I really felt bad, because I couldn’t give her a good answer. So I get off the plane, and I come to the seminar. I think then, good grief, I’m in a room full of successful people! So why don’t I ask them about their success?
I’ve been asking that question repeatedly over the past five years. Here’s what I’ve learned.
The first thing is passion. Most of the people I’ve spoken with do it (whatever “it” may be) for love; not for money. If you do it for love, the money comes anyway.
Fun! These people enjoy their work. And they work hard.
There is no magic; it’s practice, practice, practice. That equals focus.
Push! You have to push through determination and self-doubt. Goldie Hawn says: “I’ve always doubted myself. I wasn’t good enough or smart enough. I didn’t think I’d make it.” It’s not always easy to push yourself!
Service. You can’t serve yourself; you must offer something of value to others. Service is the source of true wealth.
Ideas! No magic here. Think big, think bold.
“Perseverance is the number one reason for our success.” I hear it over & over. You have to keep plowing through your failures.
You Are Enough!
In life we tend to get a reflection of what we believe we deserve, and if we believe that we don’t deserve money, love or success then we will actually subconsciously manage to block it out of our life.
You are enough as you are. You don’t need to do anything else. You don’t need to change yourself. You don’t need to do more. You are enough. You are good enough as you are. You are beautiful as you are, and you are whole. Yes, we are human. Everyone has weaknesses and flaws, but you can still be enough even when you have those weaknesses and flaws. You are still whole no matter what because I’m referring to your soul. Your soul is perfect. Your soul is beautiful. There’s nothing wrong with you. You are not lacking in any area. You are whole and you are enough.
This is an affirmation. You can write it down. You can write down, “I am enough,” and meditate on that statement. Repeat it to yourself everyday because it’s such a foundational way of thinking that can set the stage to live a full and beautiful life. You have to believe and know that you are whole in order to feel at peace and feel happier in life.
Once you can truly believe this and really ingrain it in your mindset, then you’ll feel that your confidence grows and you’ll really feel strong and solid in your self worth. You know that, even if you make mistakes in life or bad things happen to you, you fail, you still know your worth. And you still feel like you are enough and you can do anything.You can take the next step and you can still move forward, enjoy your life, and live a beautiful, happy, full life.
Beware of the comparison trap. Often, on social media we’ll see other people’s lives and either you really admire this person or feel a little envious. “Oh, man. I don’t feel like I’m as good as this person,” or “… I’m as [blank] as this person,” whether it’s “… I\m as pretty,” or “… I’m as smart,” or “…I’m as [whatever]”. It’s an easy trap to fall in to, so let me try to flip the script.
Next time you find yourself admiring someone else or feeling envious of someone else, ask yourself what exactly is the quality that you like or admire or are envious in that person. Why does this person intrigue you? Why are you attracted to this person? The interesting thing here is: Human beings perceive the world in a way that relates back to ourselves. You might not realize it but everything you see in the world is a mirror of yourself. For example: with your music taste. If you like a specific song, it’s because you feel connected to that song. You feel like it relates to you in some way. You see your own personality in that song and vice versa, even if it’s subconscious. You might notice calm and nice people like calm and nice music.
The reality is: what you see in others, what you admire in others, is what you have within. Instead of letting that comparison trap get you down and make you feel insecure or make you feel like you’re not good enough, realize that what you’re seeing in those people you admire, in your idols, is that you have those same qualities within you that are asking for you to bring them out.
Understand That Life Is Fundamentally Unfair
We’re often told that success is directly correlated with hard work. That we won’t get anywhere without putting in 10,000 hours or by working 100-hour weeks. But what if that wasn’t the case? What if those who’d succeeded simply had an unfair advantage over their competitors? And what if we find out that we’ve all got our own set of unfair advantages that we can use to succeed in our lives as well?
Looking at successful people, we quickly realize that they didn’t just get there with hard work. There were other factors that played a strong role – luck, circumstances, privilege, etc. Success, however defined, is a combination of fair play & unfair advantages.
Fair play simply means that anyone could replicate the behavior. Start-up founder gets up at 4 o’clock every morning, goes for a two-hour run & then hustles & works really, really hard. That’s fair play. That’s something that any motivated person could do.
That same startup founder had super rich parents who invested in the company from day one. That would be an unfair advantage. It’s an advantage that is key to success, but that not everyone can replicate. This is a key part of success that is rarely spoken about. Life doesn’t give us a level playing field.
Number one, everyone has different inherent strengths & weaknesses. Number two, circumstances are different. So people have access to the network, to finance, or the right location at the right time. Unfair advantages aren’t just about our strengths, they’re also about our circumstances, basically something that gives us a competitive edge.
Unfair advantages aren’t just for people who are rich and famous. They’re for everyone. We all have our own set of unfair advantages.
How do we find out what our own unfair advantages are? According to authors Ash Ali and Hasan Kubba, by using the MILES framework. Money, intelligence and insight, location and luck, education, expertise, and status.
Let’s start with M which stands for money. Let’s take Evan Spiegel, the billionaire co-founder of Snapchat who became the world’s youngest self-made billionaire at just age 24. He grew up in a multimillion-dollar house in Los Angeles, attended expensive private schools, and had parents who were powerful and well-connected lawyers. This put him in unique circles and gave him access to tech entrepreneurs and CEOs that most people could never dream of accessing. Clearly he had to put in the work and the ideas but his example shows how money, prestige, and power can be a big unfair advantage.
I stands for intelligence and insight. So let’s take the Collison Brothers for example. They co-founded Stripe which became a multi-billion dollar payments processing company before either of them had turned 22. Patrick Collison invented his own computer programming language when he was 16 and he left school a year early to enroll at MIT. His brother John finished with the highest ever score on his Leaving Certificate, the final examination in the Irish secondary school system, and he’d been accepted into Harvard before he’d even done his exams. And yes, of course, loads of hard work and effort went into it but I think it’s reasonably fair to say that the Collison brothers’ intelligence was some sort of unfair advantage.
L stands for location and luck. Ray Kroc, the pioneer of McDonald’s once said, “The two most important requirements for major success are first, being in the right place at the right time and secondly, doing something about it.” Location is clearly important. For instance, businesses cluster as they do in Silicon Valley and the right location can be key to unlocking opportunities, making connections and accessing a target market. Luck is even more interesting and I’d probably argue that luck isn’t really an unfair advantage. I’d probably put it into the fair play section instead. We can often manufacture our own luck by just exposing ourselves to more things.
The E stands for education and expertise. Let’s be honest, having a fancy degree from a fancy university probably is an unfair advantage, depending on your goals. For instance, you wanted to start a YouTube channel aimed at medical students. If you happen to be a medical student at Cambridge University, which is famously a good university, you’d probably want to plug that wherever you could because that’s your unfair advantage. It’s something that other people in that space can’t replicate very easily and therefore it becomes more interesting, more brandable.
Expertise is something that we can build on our own by learning on our own initiative. It’s not just something that’s done to us until the age of 22. It’s a lifelong endeavor.
Finally, we have S for status. Of course status can be an unfair advantage. Elon Musk’s status in the world is so high right now that if he starts any new company, it’s guaranteed to be successful in some way – or at least everyone’s going to hear about it regardless of how ridiculous the name is.
We can develop inner status – things like confidence and self-esteem which can be of great benefit if we don’t have the outward status of people like Elon Musk.
What would you say to people who say that they don’t have any unfair advantages? – Everybody has unfair advantages. What might seem like a disadvantage can actually turn into an advantage. One example is having little money. Many of us who’ve bootstrapped businesses had little money, with very, very tight budgets, or hardly anything to invest.
Having little money makes you more creative. Necessity is the mother of invention, right? Having less money and less status, less socioeconomic status can give you more of a fire in your belly to succeed.
The Successful Mindset
I think everyone can agree that when you look at the most successful people in the world – “the greats” – they’re not necessarily the most talented or the most intelligent, or even the ones who were born with the most resources at hand. A lot of these people started out with nothing and they made it all the way to the top. Yet other people who are blessed to start with more go nowhere.
There is no one defining factor for successful people. There’s no baby that’s born and we say, “This baby is a successful baby.” It’s not genetic. It really lies in the mindset and the character that you develop in your life that keeps you going & pushes you to get there. I think so much of it is stamina, to stay in the game, to believe in yourself when nobody else does, just see your dreams through to the end.
There are two types of mentalities that we can develop. One of them is seeing problems as learning opportunities. Another is avoiding problems altogether – often out of fear of failure. People who avoid conflicts can be described as having a fixed mindset. Those who see problems as interesting challenges have a growth-to-grow mentality.
Life is a series of challenges. Our two mindsets however go through challenges in very different ways. The fixed mindset tries to avoid challenges as much as possible. Why risk failing? With this way of thinking it’s better to stay inside the comfort zone, simply because it’s easier. The growth mindset embraces challenges. It thrives in environments where it can learn and improve, even if it means stepping outside of the comfort zone. For the growth mindset taking on the difficult task is a way of getting better
We might or might not accept a challenge but obstacles will come our way whether we like it or not. The fixed mindset is likely to give up in the face of obstacles. The growth mindset, however, will not be discouraged. Obstacles are once again seen as an opportunity to try harder and be better. Whatever the outcome is, the growth mindset will always see it as a success because even failing at something means learning and learning equals success every time.
Doing anything in life requires at least a certain amount of effort on your part. For the fixed mindset, effort is an unnecessary evil. What is the point of all the time and energy invested if the outcome might be failure in the end? If you think in this way, there is no surprise that making any effort will be avoided as much as possible. The growth mindset sees effort as a crucial part of mastering useful skills. Making an effort is the way we become better.
The fixed mindset hates all critics! Any type of criticism is automatically perceived as an attack and thus all negative feedback is rejected. The growth mindset knows that there is something to be learned from everything, even negative feedback. Viewing criticism as a source of information to help towards self-development is what will help you grow as a person.
Success of others is perceived as a threat by the fixed mindset. It is often rationalized as other people having luck, rather than acknowledgement of their effort. It also takes the responsibility away from the person with the fixed mindset. If others are successful because they are lucky, there is nothing I can do to become successful myself other than wait for my luck. The growth mindset sees success as something to be learned from, not to be feared and successful people as a source of inspiration.
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