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The Definition of Success

Posted On  July 17, 2012

 

Over the next few months, I will share some thoughts with you about success and what it takes to succeed. We’ll talk about things like curiosity, tenacity, resilience, and patience. But to begin, we need to first talk about what success is. To start, I’d like to share a story that led me to a better understanding of how I view success.

You never know where you’ll learn something particularly meaningful. I had just found out that my son had fallen off a cliff in the south of Spain in a mountain biking accident. All I knew was that he was in a hospital where he’d already been for a couple of days and, if I left “right now,” I could catch the last plane of the day that would get me there. I stopped home to get my passport and pack a carry-on. I drove straight to the airport with a plan that I would call my wife when I landed to find out the game plan. I landed in Spain and learned that my son was now at the hotel. When I got to the hotel, my son greeted me in a wheelchair with a broken pelvis, collarbone, and ribs. He wasn’t going anywhere for a few days; we had to wait until he was healthy enough to travel.

“I guess we’re going to make the most of this time together.” Josh was on a trip for young adults and on the agenda for this trip included a talk given by Jim Hayhurst, a man who had recently completed a failed expedition up Mt Everest. Yes, a failed trip because Jim’s son had a near fatal fall and Jim came close to dying himself, requiring him to turn back down the mountain before making it to the summit. While Jim regaled us with a variety of fascinating stories (read about them in “The Right Mountain”), one thought has stayed with me for more than a decade. It is a definition of success that I have used ever since. It is simply, “Success is the accomplishment of one’s goals without sacrificing one’s core values.”  Think about it. It’s not achieving your goals at any cost; it is achieving your goals, while also living to your core values.

I’d love to hear your opinions on what success means to you. This is a fascinating topic to me, one I think often think about. In future posts, I’ll share with you my thoughts on the keys to success.

– Dave

Editor’s Note: This post is part of a 3-part series by Dave Sackman, LRW’s CEO, on the topic of success.  This is the first in the series on the definition of success.

Written by Dave Sackman
Dave Sackman has over 25 years experience in marketing and research. He is an expert in marketing strategy and student of leadership. Dave is the CEO of LRW Group and has turned it into the global so what?® company, focused on using consumer feedback to drive business impact. You can follow him on Twitter (@DavidSackman).

7 Comments

  1. The definition of success is hard to define. I think it is important to constantly have an open mind in order to figure out how you can improve on your weaknesses, while persevering through obstacles thrown your way.

    Additionally, it is meaningful to be able to achieve your goals while helping others achieve theirs.

    Most importantly, all these successes can only be accomplished if you strive to be happy with your life, regardless of circumstances.

    I don’t think there is a monetary value, educational requirement, or a title that measures success. Striving to accomplish what is important to you and being happy with your life is my definition of success.

  2. Dave,

    Thanks for sharing – this is definitely a fascinating topic.

    There are so many variables/angles that come into play. Perceptions: success in your eyes vs. success in others’ eyes; Size: small success vs. grand success; Longevity: short-term success vs. long-standing success; as well as many more.

    The ‘Perceptions’ angle is the one that is most interesting to me. Lots of people view your accomplishments as CEO (and, even earning the right to be CEO) as a success, but the reason that you are where you are and you are doing the things you do is because that is exactly what you wanted and what you sought out to own – – which makes it ‘pure success’ in my mind.

    When thinking about pure success, my brother, Chris Walker, comes to mind. A naturally smart guy, great with people, clever thinker, Chris could have gone the traditional route going from prep school to college to entry level position to working his way up the desk-job ladder…and he could have achieved success by others’ traditional standards. However, he would not have found ‘pure success’, because he wouldn’t have been striving for the success he desires.

    Chris happens to have an incredible, natural talent for drumming – absolutely mind-blowing. It is his reason d’être. After much soul-searching, he recognized that this is his true passion and his source of happiness and purpose. So he adjusted course and began striving for success in his eyes. Starting with a group of loosely connected friends, they formed a band (Broccoli Samurai) and dedicated themselves 100%. After they had a few songs put together, they started playing at small, local venues in front of even smaller crowds. Through, having some people gather (and even pay money!) to see them play was the first of many ‘pure successes’, because it was what they truly wanted and believed in.

    The size of the shows grew, the band signed a manager, they hit the studio and kept adding to their list of pure successes. And, each subsequent success was growing in size. In a week or so from now, they are opening for OAR, a nationally-celebrated band, in front of thousands of people at one of the biggest venues in Cleveland, our hometown. They are also continuing work on a new EP being recorded in a state-of-the art studio. While this can clearly be seen as success in others’ eyes, it is pure success because it is what rings true to Chris and the rest of the band. These continued pure successes also represent a shift in longevity from having one successful show to creating a successful band that has loyal, long-standing fans.

    Chris has been an inspiration to me, as he has gone full-throttle towards achieving success in his eyes every single day. I think about it often as I continue to fine-tune my course and ultimately strive to obtain my ‘pure successes’. I was fortunate to find something I am passionate about early on, but staying true to myself has enabled me to grow in directions that are ‘pure’. This is exactly in line with what Tal just mentioned above: “Striving to accomplish what is important to you and being happy with your life is my definition of success.”

    I look forward to subsequent posts that, I’m sure, will explore the many complexities of this interesting topic!

    (pls pardon any typos, written via iPad at a coffee shop!)

  3. Thanks for your comments Tal and Matt, we appreciate your thoughts on what success means for you.

    Matt, It sounds like your brother Chris is accomplishing his goals and achieving great success.

    It is important that everyone find a definition for success that works for them.

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