In my last musings, I mentioned filling out a questionnaire. As I thought about it further, another item from the survey came to mind, “List the 3 most important things you have learned about success.”

This is particularly interesting, because it makes you consider your perception of “success” based on learning through experience. Here are my thoughts to get you thinking:

1. Success can be fleeting.

Think about working in a corporate environment and being required to meet targets. This year’s targets are not next year’s targets. For example, if as a sales resource your target is to generate $1 million in revenue and you generate $1.01 million: you are successful. Then, next year your target is raised to $1.25 million in revenue and you only generate $1.2 million: you have failed. Although you generated more revenue year over year, you did not hit the target; therefore, you did not achieve success.


Remember there is only 18 inches difference between a pat on the back and a kick in the pants. This leads to the next thing I’ve learned about success.

2. Success is often defined by someone other than us.

In the example above, someone up the corporate ladder established the targets. You failed to achieve the target, but generated a year over year revenue increase of 20%. Have you ever dealt with not measuring up to someone else’s success criteria?

What about societal success criteria? Wealth, social status, power and influence… are any of these really important to you?

3. If reaching a stated target is the only measured criteria for success, how does that affect the process or journey?

We have heard much about enjoying the journey or the destination not being as critical as the journey itself. But, in reality, we have so much pressure to obtain the target goal. In many cases, the real mantra is that the end justifies the means. In my opinion, this is dangerous. For instance, youth sports: we see coaches/parents wanting to win so badly that what they will teach children is counterproductive to establishing good, upright adults.

What do you think? Is the journey more vital or does the end really justify the means?

Quick story, our son during his college years was in a class in which the professor was discussing the merits of “the end justifies the means.” Our son asked the professor; “If the professor really believed the end justifies the means, did she cheat to obtain her degrees?”

Finally, if you do have a success criterion, make sure it is your own. Abraham Lincoln said in his first foray into politics, “Every man is said to have his peculiar ambition. Whether it be true or not, I can say for one that I have no other so great as that of being truly esteemed of my fellow men, by rendering myself worthy of their esteem.”

Lincoln wanted to be esteemed by making himself worthy of being esteemed. What do you want to be?