I’m trying to sort something out and I’d like your thoughts about it. I’m a classic Type-A personality: I like to be in charge, and expect to succeed at everything I do. My family was pretty poor when I was growing up; my parents struggled to feed us kids, and lots of times we went without. As the oldest, I worked three jobs through high school and college to help out; it was difficult, but I graduated with honors, and eventually started working in a recruiting agency. I have been there for 5 years, a top producer with an income to match. So what’s my problem? About a year ago I started really wondering what it means to succeed, and how a person can ever know if they are truly successful. My question is, what do you think is the definition of success? Is it the result of hard work and overcoming frustration and suffering? Or some thing that comes from more abstract concepts like happiness, love and joy? How do you know if you have achieved it?
You have certainly asked the 7-figure question, and many go through life without ever finding a good answer to it. I think you’re ahead of the crowd though, because you already know what you don’t
know; imagine if you were oblivious to your quest for success and spent your life randomly, with only a vague sense of unease that there might be something more out there for you.
My take is that the definition of success is highly personal, and it is based in how well you know and understand yourself. Your values, the guiding principles of your life, influence your choices and priorities in the quest. So when you define success for yourself, you must also decide if it relates to the achievement of short-term goals and objectives, or more broadly to the quality of life and relationships you experience along the way.
For some, success is measured in the collection of money or things; for others, it is measured in the richness of family and friends, of knowing others and being truly known and loved for who you are. Still others define it in the thirst for knowledge, or the simplicity of having "just enough." Only you can decide how to measure success for yourself, but with that great freedom comes the even greater responsibility of living with your choices. So it’s easy to see why it is so important to start by knowing yourself well. A rocket launched to the moon that is off by only a fraction of a degree will miss its landing point by thousands of miles.
By answering the question for yourself, you consciously begin a journey with your eyes wide open; remember that for as long as you live "success" will be on the horizon in front of you: attainable, but calling you ever closer. Remember too that every new piece of information, every new experience in your life, influences and changes who you are becoming; I urge you to reconsider your definition of success from time to time, and allow yourself the joy of redefining it as the old definition no longer meets your needs.
I wish you well, my friend. This part of your journey is really important, and I have no doubt that you’ll be successful here, too. Write back and tell us what you find out.
In my day job, I’m the Head of Products for Improved Experience, where we help employers use feedback to measure and manage competitive advantage in hiring and retention. Learn more about us here
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