What Is Success?


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This past weekend I was browsing through my RSS reader, and I came across an interesting post titled What is success? Impact.

The author is basically questioning what should be considered success (on a professional level), and he comes to the conclusion that success should be measured as the positive impact his work will have upon the lives of other people.

The article caught my attention because I have the exact same opinion.

Obviously I don’t think there is right or wrong as to how we define success. The term itself is a subjective thing, so what success means to you might be different from what it means to me or other people, and this is perfectly fine.

That being said, I think it is useful to discuss about such definitions, because it helps us to analyze whether or not we are moving in the right direction.

For example, most people tend to equate success with money. That is, the more money you make, the more successful you are. But under this definition one could argue that a drug dealer who makes millions of dollars annually is a very successful person. I don’t agree with this. I could give you that such drug dealer is a savvy businessman, but I wouldn’t call him successful, because the impact he has on the life of other people is actually a very negative one. The same thing could be said about online spammers, scammers and so on.

Now take Linus Torvalds as another example. He is the founder of the Linux movement, which created one of the most successful open source projects to date, and enabled millions of people to use a free and very reliable operating system. I am not sure how rich he is, but even if he was broke I would call him a successful person, because he had a huge impact on the lives of people from around the world.

Note that these things are not mutually exclusive either. In other words, it is possible to make a lot of money and have a positive impact in the lives of many people at the same time (and often times they go together). Just think about Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Larry Page and Sergei Brin.

But, I suspect that these folks were first and foremost motivated by the possibility of making something big that would impact many people. As Steve Jobs say, by the possibility of putting a dent in the universe. Sure, they were no philanthropists, so the money was welcome too, but I don’t think it was the only nor the main thing they were pursuing.

Which leads us to one question: are you working to make as much money as possible, or to make as big an impact as possible?

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57 Responses to “What Is Success?”

  • Hamza

    I agree with you that a drug dealer can not be a example of success.This is one of the reason why everyday moral values are declining at such a fast pace.In small cities and rural communities there is now also this concept that a man is not successful just because of money but in cosmopolitan cities generally people are more materialistic and they think that success is measured by the amount of money we have in bank account.

  • jack goldman

    Money, and even success, have a declining return like education or talking too much. The first $10,000 or $100,000 makes a life changing impact. The second $100,000 or second $1,000,000 have less of a return.

    Leisure is the same. A little leisure if fun. Too much leisure is boring. This is the issue of inhaling and exhaling in harmony with each other. Two opposites complete each other to sustain life. Money and love complete each other even though they are so different. Harmony is the secret. Eight hours of hard work, eight hours of fun or enjoying life, and eight hours of sleep. That is a good formula for harmony. Chasing “success” too much takes a person out of harmony. Too much technology and not nature or beauty takes a person out of balance.

    What a Buddhist monk was asked what wealth meant he responded, “Wealth is being able to eat when you are hungry and sleep when you are tired”. That’s a pretty good definition of success too. The rest is easy.

  • Jade De los Santos

    “Success is when you become a blessing to others “.) This is my personal definition of success. Considering that,we all are made by God to reflect His love to others.How about you sir?.

    Jade De los Santos

  • Ch Rehan

    According To Me. . . ( SUCCESS )
    I think success is a very big part of the life because every person has want to get it, but it is get when you are fully responsible for your opportunity, positive thinking, continuously struggle, concentrate on work, positive attitude,etc that things help to get the success.


    Ch Rehan

  • sarah

    Success and happiness go hand in hand.
    Success is getting what you want and Happiness is wanting what you get.

  • Mutiu O’Balogun

    Fantastic Article and so far enjoyed reading at least most if not all of the responses.

    Personally, I feel that there are different kinds of success(es), personal success/pertaining to the individual’s self observation, realization and sense of achievement of results etc.. is what most people relate to as success, however, an alternative indication of success can be taken from a selfless person’s perspective, someone who likes touching and making impact on others, likely candidates being humanitarians, die hard social workers and community worker and the likes. To these, signs of success is a mere reflection of their contribution to their immediate or extended context.

    But one thing that goes with either side of the pool and rather universal, is that success is setting out to do something and accomplishing and attaining the desired outcome. Least to say success is about satisfaction (Content).

  • Josephine Victor

    Interesting thread. According to me The success is the achievement of something desired, planned, or attempted. If you look at success as an end result, you will not see prosperity until you achieve your targets, goals, and objectives.

  • Winning Ideas

    Thats excellent article. Kudos to Daniel.

    Success and happiness go hand in hand.
    Success is getting what you want and Happiness is wanting what you get.

    We live in two personalities. First ,what we think about ourselves and second, what others think about us. When the feedback from both these personalities are Positive and Happy, we have tasted the success 🙂

    What you say Daniel?

    Naveen Kulkarni

  • Shoumik Kahali

    I have written an article on what is success?…
    In my opinion when we talk about success or successful people we mean prosperity and fame…

    The definition of success is achieving what you wanted…
    here prosperity and fame is something that every one wants to achieve….

    How ever there is another word satisfaction…which means liking what you do or achieved…

    The word happiness depends on these two factor Success and Satisfaction

    If you are successful and satisfied then only you can gain happiness…

  • Durvesh

    According to me success is the thing which I get when me myself control my mind and not when my mind controls me. It is strange but true, whenever in my life when I controls my mind I am happy and when vice versa happens I am unhappy. For me being happy means achieving success in life. So control your mind and be happy and successful in your life.

  • Glen

    This is a very interesting post.

    My motto for success was what ever you wanted it to be.

    For example getting to 10 subscribers and 100 followers were all success situations for me.

  • jaco

    For me success is accomplishing goals I set for myself. Even meeting a small goal is a success. I don’t think money is an accurate measuring stick for success. Impact that has a positive effect on another is true success.

  • GoosPoos :: Web & Software Technology Blog

    Success is byproduct of your good karma.

  • Eran

    A couple of thoughts…

    1. Money is a way to keep score…. Helping others isn’t always a tangible method of keeping score.

    2. Drug Dealers aren’t the problem… Drug addicts chose to start taking drugs. Its a similar fallacy that guns kill when really its people.

    I agree that helping people is a sure sign of success.

    • Deena

      Eran, I would definitely consider drug dealers a problem. 🙂

    • Daniel Scocco

      Drug dealers have several methods to “spark” the addiction on users. Things like giving free doses, getting young people to try and so on. That is why I think they are part of the problem too.

      • Deena

        I think that if you are trying to make money by selling something that is only destructive to others, in other words, if you are trying to make your life good by ruining other people’s lives, that is very immoral. So it’s not only about offering free doses. It’s about the essence of their business to begin with.

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