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Published on January 8, 2020

What the Road to Success Actually Looks Like

What the Road to Success Actually Looks Like

I’ve been chewing on this question in my mind for a while as I analyze my journey through life thus far as a 28 year old man.

“What does the road to success really look like?”

It is a tough question to answer because evaluating your own trajectory in life is difficult to do and there is no “one size fits all” sort of method that can conclusively tell you when you’ve made it in life. I’d venture to guess that most of us if not all of us, want to experience success in life.

The dictionary definition for success is:[1]

“a degree or measure of succeeding” as well as a “favorable or desired outcome.” Seems simple enough, right?

However, I think the majority of folks who contemplate this question often are not prepared for the challenge that they will face in seeking to find a proper answer.

Perhaps you have achieved some success in your own life this far in your career, or some of your personal goals and dreams. For me, I think my biggest success so far has been to graduate college and earn my Bachelor’s degree.

Where Is the Ceiling on Success?

The interesting thing about a “road to success” is that, there is always another bend up ahead for you to travel on. Consider someone like Bill Gates.

Bill Gates founded Microsoft and is one of the most-wealthy individuals on the planet. By all means and measure, Bill Gates is the idea of success fully realized and more. He has conquered every mountain that he has wanted to climb in his life.

Bill Gates had a vision that few are able to realize back when he founded Microsoft Corp in 1975:[2]

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“Ultimately, the PC will be a window to everything people are interested in- and everything we need to know.” – Bill Gates

His work in computing has shifted the entire dynamic of our culture and is reflected in the rise to prominence that we’ve seen in the tech industry at large. Microsoft and Bill Gates paved the way for Apple, Google, Amazon, and more!

Has he stopped working now that he has reached what anyone could point to as success? No, if anything now he works even harder to achieve meaningful change in the world!

Failure Is Part of the Recipe to Success

In considering the road to success, one has to first come to understand that failure is a part of the equation. It is through our failures and miscues that we learn lessons about life and the pursuit of betterment within that life.

Each time we are knocked down by the circumstances of life, we have an important decision to make. You can choose to get up and keep trying, or to give up and stay down and out.

I believe it is monumentally important that you become comfortable with failure if you ever decide that you want to seek out “real” success. Why?

Because not even professional MLB players have a perfect record when it comes to taking big swings. You can’t hit a home-run each time you go to bat. But if you keep swinging, then the home-runs will materialize over time!

Each failure then becomes something valuable for the individual who is looking to walk down the road towards success. It isn’t a setback, but an effective lesson. Each time you miss the target, you’ve learned something important that will contribute towards your next success.

Appreciate the Grind

The next important aspect to consider when contemplating the road to success, is to not just focus on your end goal throughout that process of pursuit. You also must take the time and energy to enjoy the journey.

The “getting there” is more than half the battle and if you are miserable or unwilling to appreciate the pursuit, then you will find a hollow joy in finally reaching your destination.

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Take the time to soak in the moments in your life as they happen; there are no guarantees in this world. Achieving success isn’t so much about a singular point in your life, but the grand, collective whole of your pursuit as you accumulate victories and your success begets future success.

Whether you want to work until your 45 or 75, you can’t take this life for granted as it is happening. I think the biggest mistake people make is to either live too beyond their means early on in their life which disallows them from having a healthy and enjoyable retirement, or vice versa in that they spend too much time looking ahead and not enough time enjoying the moments in life as they pass them by.

Success Is a Moving Target

It’s important to understand that your idea of what success is will shift as time passes. When I got out of college, just getting any sort of salaried position with decent benefits was my idea of success. Now that I’ve been on a career path for 4 or 5 years, my idea of success has changed with time.

Now I dream to become a more senior contributor within my role so that I can increase my cash flow, decrease my expenses, and continue to grow my net worth over time.

As you move forward in life, your dreams and ideas of success are bound to shift, ebb, and flow with the motions of your momentum through life.

Balancing Your Approach to Success

There is a great balance to have where you can save and plan for the future, while also enjoying the time you have in the present and utilizing it effectively to live a more full life.

Success isn’t simply a dollar sign with a lot of zeros behind it. It can be defined in a multitude of ways and as an individual, you’ve got to decide what that definition looks like to you and then attack life in a positive way to generate your ideal reality.

My personal goal for life and how I define success will look unique and totally different from the other person. For me, I’d like to become “FIRE” at a relatively young age, perhaps in my early 50’s, so that I stop working in my career path and start working towards something that I truly enjoy.

For the uninitiated, FIRE means “Financially Independent, Retire Early.” It is a growing movement where individuals prioritize controlling costs, lifestyle inflation, and increasing savings rate in order to have the financial flexibility to do what they want in life.

Some people emphasize the “retire early” portion of the plan whilst other care more about the financial independence and flexibility that it provides to them.

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According to the /r/FIRE sub-reddit:[3]

“FIRE is a place for people who are or want to become Financially Independent.”

I don’t necessarily want to retire, but I want the flexibility to be able to choose to do so if at that point in time, I feel so inclined.

However, many would think this an extreme plan and wouldn’t consider this their path towards success. That is one of the best aspects about the definition of success is that, it is unique to the individual and the context of their life.

If you want more perspectives about how to balance your life, take a look at these articles:

Stay in Motion

One of the biggest issues that many have as they walk down the road in pursuit of success, is that they burn out over time. It can be so easy to start towards a goal with immense passion and energy, but life often steps in and leads to demotivation and distraction.

As someone in the pursuit of succeeding at a specific goal, you’ve got to keep that goal in mind and understand that as long as you are taking steps towards that success, even if they are baby steps, you are still making progress.

If you stop and allow yourself to stagnate, then you will quickly lose sight of that pursuit of success and may fall into patterns of behavior that don’t line up with your dream of achieving success.

This means that it is key that you always stay in motion in pursuit of those goals. If you aren’t moving forward, then you are surely moving backwards; and that is antithetical to accomplishing the success that you are seeking to achieve!

Find out here How to Stay Motivated and Reach Your Big Goals in Life.

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Give Yourself Your Due

As you continue to strive and generate your own individual road to success in life, please take the time to also take stock of what you’ve done up until this point.

Your accomplishments matter as the process unfolds and they are to be celebrated! If you don’t give yourself credit for the progress you’ve made during this journey, then you may lose heart to continue and pursue success.

It can be satisfying and validating to look back on where you’ve come from while also balancing that against what you still have left to accomplish. It is necessary to remember your wins and use that as fuel for your fire as you continue to move forward in your life.

The road to success is long and tiresome but by remembering the journey and what all you’ve overcome, you will continue to build up confidence and strength to go further than you ever dreamed possible!

Success is For You

At the end of the day, success and what it looks like is entirely unique to the individual who is contemplating such a topic. You define internally what success looks like for you and behave accordingly within that structure that you’ve decided on.

If you never consider what success looks like, then chances are that you will not fall into a place of success. Achieving success takes pre-mediation and thought. It takes risk, boldness, and at times the urgency to act in a moment to secure a more long term return on your work or energy expended.

It never comes easy and it never comes without sacrifice. With diligence, pride, hard work and a strong work ethic, it can be achieved by anyone and that is one of the most exciting elements of the idea of success! It is truly attainable for those who are willing to pour themselves into their desire to achieve it.

Draw Your Map

The best part about the pursuit of success? You get to draw your own map. The beautiful thing about success is that each and every day, someone builds a new road and reaches the same destination of success without ever walking in the footsteps of someone else.

Given the fact that there are near infinite ways to achieve success, it is on you to create your own personal roadmap for getting to that place in life.

This can be a freeing thing as it signifies that you don’t have to be raised in a certain class of society, or go to a specific school or get a specific job in order to achieve success. Your path can be entirely new and have never been tread on before, and still lead you to your final destination.

Success is on the horizon. Will you chase after it?

More on Success

Featured photo credit: Matt Duncan via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merriam Master: Success
[2] Entrepreneur: Bill Gates
[3] Reddit: Fire

More by this author

Colton Black

Motivational Coach, Self-Help Blogger, Recording Engineer, Professional Dad

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Last Updated on February 25, 2020

Is There a True Measure of Success? How to Define Your Own

Is There a True Measure of Success? How to Define Your Own

Success is an enchanting word. It’s the magical stardust we all want to be touched by. It’s a goal on its own for many too, a motivator, a reason to wake up every day with the drive to take on the world and “have it all.”

Luckily, there is barely a shortage of advice on how you can thrive and prosper. In fact, a simple question to Google on “how to be successful” yields the impressive 815 million results.

Why is success so popular of a notion? Because it feels good to be at the top, to see your hard work pay off, to be smiled upon by the good-fate fairy. It’s a high like no other.

But every so often, success feels like a chimera more than a real thing— a lot like happiness, in fact. We talk, read and write books about it, listen to wise men and women coach us on “how to get there” or of the “habits of the ultra successful.”

And yet—it’s a tantalizing feeling—you are never completely satisfied with yourself, because there is someone who is always more “successful”—richer, more popular, better looking, has more friends.

So, how can you ever know with certainty that you have finally made it? Is there a measure of success?

Does the magnitude of your success depend on the amount of money you have in the bank, the number of friends on social media, the amount of times you have been recognized for something, your GPA score, the university were accepted into, or perhaps—how many lives you’ve changed?

The answer is that it all depends on how you define success for yourself and how you choose to measure it.

What Is Success Really?

Before we launch into exploring the above questions, let’s briefly review what the greates can tell us about the meaning of success.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the most common definition of success is:

“Favorable or desired outcome, the attainment of wealth, favor or eminence.”

But is there more to it than fame and money?

“In my opinion, true success should be measured by how happy you are.” —  Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group

“Success isn’t how much money you have. Success is not what your position is. Success is how well you do what you do when nobody else is looking.” — John Paul DeJoria, billionaire entrepreneur

“The definition of success is waking up in the morning with a smile on your face, knowing it’s going to be a great day.” — Mark Cuban, billionaire investor

“I measure success by how many people love me.” — Warren Buffet, billionaire investor.

“It is also nice to feel like you made a difference — inventing something or raising kids or helping people in need.” — Bill Gates, Microsoft cofounder

What Isn’t Success

Based on the above ruminations of these truly successful people (according to society’s opinion too), success starts to shape more as an internal feeling, a sense of purpose and of fulfilment rather than the pursuit of accolades from others or a large bank account.

Although all these individuals are undoubtedly wealthy, notice that no one mentions “having millions in the bank” as a definition of success. Nor things along the lines of more followers on social media, making others envious or having an expensive lifestyle.

This is not what success is or how it should be measured.

How Success Is Measured

There are several “common” (not necessarily genuine) measures of success, by society definitions. Although we may not agree with all, accept them or even live by them, they are still worth noting:

Wealth

Money and material possessions are sadly, still a rather universal (although often very deceptive) equivalent of success. If you are rich, then you must be successful, right?

There are many flaws in this assumption which we will review a bit later, but for now, let’s say that wealth may indeed, accompany success—but it should be viewed as more of a consequence of your achievements rather than a goal in itself.

Popularity

With wealth often comes popularity. The two notions are frequently viewed as close cousins, especially when we think about famous actors, writers, or entrepreneurs.

By extension, we also have the online influencers—that is, success may sometimes be expressed by the number of the people who follow you on social media and whom you can reach and impact with your content and posts.

External vs Internal

Wealth and popularity are some of the external measures of success. They are somewhat more tangible and easier to compare.

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There is, however, a whole other universe of success definitions which are invisible, can’t be easily measured and are highly personalized.

Internal evaluators are better gauges of success, though, as they are set by us and thus—follow our own life trajectory. More on this later.

Comparisons

A very common way to know if you have “made it” is to look at your neighbour’s yard and check how you fare against them.

Comparisons are not always bad though, sometimes they can be motivating, depending on who we fare against and to what ends.

The Flawed External Measures of Success

Most of the above-mentioned measures of success—the external ones— although rather omnipresent, don’t quite work to give you a peace of mind that you are really at the top of your game.

Just think about it— how many cases have you witnessed or read about of people who appear to have it all on the outside and yet—they are deeply unhappy, insecure and depressed? And even more— why when we achieve success, say, something that we’ve strived for, the jittery feeling doesn’t last?

One reason is that success is susceptible to the so-called hedonic treadmill.[1] It’s our tendency to adjust to events in our lives rather quickly.

Studies have found that when people through major events—be it winning the lottery, getting a promotion, winning a prize— they report that their happiness doesn’t last long after winning. They feel a temporary high which wears off rather quickly.

Another interesting study has found that bronze medalist are actually much happier than the silver medalists.[2] Although counter-intuitive at first thought, according to the research, such individuals engage in “counterfactual thinking.” That is, they compare against what may have been (not winning a medal at all).

It’s all in the mind and how we perceive the world to be—winning vs. losing, success vs. failure, beautiful vs. unattractive. It’s often all in the eye of the beholder, it seems.

How to Find Your Own Success Ruler

So, an open question still remains—what if you work in, say, a charity organization or a shelter, making a modest salary but are able to help many people? Are you successful or not?

What about someone like Vincent Van Gogh who produced more than 900 paintings in his lifetime but was only able to sell one? Then, you also have Emily Dickinson, Franz Kafka, Stieg Larson, Oscar Wilde—all of whom were unrecognized during their lifetimes. To the world, they were far from thriving.

But what if you applied another measure?

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What if you are Van Gogh and you set a goal for yourself that you will finish one painting per month? You achieve your goal. Are you successful in finishing what you set your sight on? Absolutely.

What if you manage to produce two paintings a month instead of one. Are you successful? Of course—you overachieved.

So, it’s perhaps possible to accept that to himself Van Gogh was a successful painter. He was very productive and focused.

More importantly, though, he was very fortunate to do what he loved, it brought him fulfillment and satisfaction. It gave meaning to his life, although not any wealth or appraisal from others.

The True Measures of Success

The main reason why external measures of success are flawed is that they were created by someone else. So faring our achievements against these artificial standards means that we evaluate ourselves against a bar which someone else created for us.

Rather, doesn’t it make more sense to measure success according to our own ruler—whether we find what we do meaningful to us, whether it helps others’ lives improve and whether we have more happy memories than regrets at the end of our lives?

Research tells us that people on t heir death beds have the following regrets—have the courage to live a life true to yourself, not to others’ expectations; don’t work so hard; have the courage to express your true feelings; stay in touch with your friends; let yourself be happy.[3]

So, meaningful life and success, by extension, have nothing to do with wealth, fame, number of claps of social media, number of houses or expensive cars one has.

But they have everything to do with working on what makes us happy, with living the way it makes most sense to us and surrounding ourselves with people who bring love and warmth to our lives.

How to Evaluate Your Success the Right Way

One very important thing to grasp is that being successful doesn’t always have to be measured in tangible terms, especially not the ones created by others.

That is—make your own standards if you don’t want to be stuck in a perpetual “why-others-have-more” spinning wheel.

You will know if you’ve “made it” if:

  • You love your life in general. You have a purpose and what you do is meaningful to you.
  • You are proud of yourself for what you have accomplished so far.
  • You do something bigger than you. You touch others’ lives and make them better.
  • You have people who care about you (and you care about) with whom you share your achievements. You don’t have to advertise your victories to the whole world—just to those who will be really able to share your joy and appreciate your hard work.
  • You see progress. You are not stuck in the status quo, you are evolving and improving.

However, it may be true that you still need some external point of reference to know how you are doing. For instance, how to know how smart you are, or how good you are at math, at managing your finances, or dealing with people?

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One way to answer this is by measuring up against past precedents or to others in similar situations and settings. But external comparisons must be approached with caution—you must be carefully selective about who you weigh yourselfs against and the dimensions you elect to measure up to.

First and foremost, though, whenever possible, you must value your achievements against your past self.

Summing It All Up

The best way to measure success is to define what it means and looks like to you, and then assess your progress against these goals.

For instance, success for someone may be to publish their first book. Once you have this aspiration, break it down in smaller bite-size tasks—say, you commit to write 500 words every day. You check yourself against the aim you yourself set for you.

For another person, success may be to become a millionaire—again—figure out the steps you need to take to get there and follow through. Or perhaps you want to finish a marathon. Then commit to run every day, gradually increasing the distance.

And if you fall short, don’t beat yourself up. Remember that success may be also viewed as simply trying, moving, taking action.

Final take-aways:

  • Drive is more important than the outcome for success—or as they say, it’s about the journey as much as the destination.
  • Success may be in the eye of the beholder, but there are some universal ways to measure it—namely, through progress, fulfillment and self-pride.
  • Success doesn’t recognition from the world. If it comes, then all the better. But it’s not a pre-requisite to feel that you have accomplished what you have set out for yourself or that you have made the world a better place.
  • And let’s not forget the good-old fear of failure. It is as Stephen Richards says: “The true measure of success is how many times you can bounce back from failure.” It’s not about never experiencing a setback or a stormy day, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.

If what you do makes you happy, content and motivated to achieve more, then, my friend, you are succeeding.

Or, as the great Maya Angelou beautifully said it:

“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”

It’s that simple, really.

More About Success

Featured photo credit: Christian Kaindl via unsplash.com

Reference

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