During my career, even when I was just starting, I’ve witnessed people grapple with what constitutes success. I’ll admit it’s not as straightforward as it might seem at first. It’s not like you can search on Wikipedia for a definition (although you’ll find five places named Success in the US alone) because people tend to validate things differently. Is it being rich? Is it being famous? Is it the validation of those around us that many equate with being successful?
The thing is, for all its intangible nature, success is actually tangible if you define it properly. That would be the main point of this post: to help you define success for yourself. I look at it in two ways:
- in the professional/business sense that’s goal oriented;
- the personal kind.
There are a lot of good quotes about success and I probably could paste a few of them here and call it a day. I’m here to share my personal beliefs about what I deem is a successful person in this line of business.
Not a lot of people know this, but I was kicked out of school and would likely be tagged “most unlikely to be successful” in that yearbook thing kids do. Why am I mentioning this? Because in the business sense, I always thought success is when people trust you enough that you don’t have to ask twice, whether it’s for someone to invest in you, work with you, or just be your client (how’s that for a fancy quote?).
The importance of trust is something I touched upon in my previous writing exercise. You don’t have to necessarily have a pioneering idea or a mistake-proof, titanium covered business plan. I didn’t but people invested in me anyway because they trusted me with their money and knew I would do whatever it takes to make them money.
When people believe in you as an entrepreneur, when you have that trust, brand, name, the freedom to choose who you work with and how you do things, when people let you do it your way – that’s what I equate with success. To be an entrepreneur is to do things your way. Sure, there are very successful people that can make more money just by being a cog in a well-oiled machine, but the very idea of being an entrepreneur is to say: it’s mine. I did it. It was my success and no one can take that away from me.
That’s success on a whole ‘nother level.
If you’re working alongside trustworthy clients and investors with the best team that you want to work with, and everybody trusts that you are THE guy that will deliver without second-guessing – that’s success. And it’s a never ending game. It doesn’t change, it just gets bigger. When you get to that point when you openly admit to yourself that you love the people you work with every day, that you’re challenging yourself and being creative, that you trust everybody and have the freedom to do whatever you want, that’s when you know you made it as long as you maintain that level of passion.
Personal success is a slightly different ball game. I know this will sound weird but there is a game I can correlate a lot of my personal success. I’m a little bit older now and I feel old when I talk about it (that’s the power of retrospect, I guess), although I’m not that old (I’m still a decade away from entering my midlife crisis!).
Anyway, the old Intel 486 computers had a game called ‘Jones in the Fast Lane’ or simply Jones, as we called it back in the day when people still ushered in the MS-DOS gaming era. It wasn’t an amazing game because it wasn’t very well built, even for those standards, but it had a simple, board game-like concept that mimicked real life. You could play with other people and take turns living a week with the end goal being the first player to achieve 100% success. Basically, early 90’s Monopoly-like version of Sims with an actual end.
The gist of the game was to do all those little things like eat, sleep, educate yourself, get a job, rest enough, get clothes, etc. Jones fairly approximated the real life whereas if you didn’t buy a fridge, your food would get sour, your belly would hurt and you’d be missing on work and lose a job – the entire ordeal. You win by reaching the top of four goals: wealth, happiness, education and career.
I liked that because it meshes well with my understanding of personal success. When all is said and done, there are five very simple characteristics which need to happen in your personal life (in no particular order):
- how you want to perceive yourself in front of your family – who you are as a person because those are the people who know you the best;
- how free are you financially to be successful in business – the person who has that freedom of thought and freedom of execution;
- social status where you meet interesting people – not necessarily high-level but more when you have access to people that share your interests and beliefs – the type of people you want to be around;
- leisure – how you enjoy your time and what you do outside of your obligatory business activities because that’s the adventure of life, it’s what keeps us expecting surprises;
- education – the more you learn, the more things can be approachable to you.
I think about that silly game every once in a while. Maybe I am overthinking it but I like those KPIs to understand how well I am doing in life as a person.
There it is – the personal definition of success by yours truly. Success is often a buzzword that holds a different meaning to different people. Defining it, particularly in the entrepreneurial spirit, is a goal that’s surprisingly elusive and challenging to implement. Use my example as a guide and think about what brings you fulfillment, happiness, and meaning.
Btw. Jones was ported to Adobe Flash so you can give it a go to see what I’m talking about (and to see that I’m not a kook). Disclaimer: I highly advise against it because I know it sounds very evolved but it really isn’t (unless you have more than an hour to spare!).