If I was to ask you what success looks like, what would you say? Do you consider yourself to be a success, or would you struggle with its rendition?
If you would have asked me five years ago, I would have told you success was owning a digital agency with a team of great people and a long list of gratified clients.
My own digital agency? – Check
Fantastic team? – Check
Happy clients? – Check
Successful? Well, there’s still so much to achieve!
That’s not to say that I do not operate a successful agency – it’s doing great, but do I feel successful? Well, I’m not sure what that looks or feels like. From a young age, we are taught that success is correlated to your accomplishments in academia, sports, career and happiness. As we grow older, we realise that success is an abstract notion determined only in the eyes of those trying to achieve it. Once you’ve achieved success in one area of your life, you’re often chasing it in another.
Success to some may be determined by a monetary value, to others, it may be their position within a company; status, family values, personal achievements, or perhaps an amalgamation of all five. Success could be finding yourself in a job you love or one that gets you home before 7 pm! Success could mean making a difference to the lives of others, or success could mean making it through an entire day without throwing the towel in.
If we don’t have an absolute and immutable definition, we have no measurable means of achieving it.
In business, we are always striving towards a goal to complete and improve our processes. Once we succeed in achieving one, we create another to work towards. Once we have achieved high heights in our business venture, we look to create success in our personal lives. This is a continual journey of self-improvement. Can you really feel successful if there is always something more to obtain? That’s not to say that as long as you are striving to better yourself and achieve, you will never be happy. Does success equal happiness? Or maybe it’s the other way around.
An interesting discussion I was having the other day was once you commit to one course of action do you fail in another? For instance, I know people who have sacrificed a good part of their ‘young’ life to grow a successful business as that was their definition of success fresh out of Uni. On the other hand, I have friends who spent their youth competing in sports or travelling the world, and as a result, have never made it on the corporate ladder. Do we conceive one to be more successful than the other or are they all equal because of their accomplishments, and more importantly, will they ever feel successful for having sacrificed the other?
I don’t believe that intangible success is down to materialistic thinking indicative of power, possessions or hierarchy. I don’t rank my friends’ success on the size of their house, social influence or the power of their cars. I see them as a success for achieving what they set out to do and the hard work they put in to get there.
Some would tell me that success came with turning over their first million, another may tell me it was the birth of their first child, but if I was to ask them if they felt holistically successful, I am confident that they would respond with ‘not yet.’