Successfully Defining Success

Dear Jack,

This is a bit of a recycle’d thought, as I wrote this recently for the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce – but I felt it worth sharing with you.  A lot of people talk regularly about success and achieving it, but I think there’s a real danger in not first defining what that success should look like.  I titled the piece “Successfully Defining Success.”

Successfully Defining Success

As young professionals, we’re all striving for success in one way or another – and realistically, probably striving for success in multiple ways.  Too often, I’ve found, my friends and I move quickly in conversation about how we’re going to achieve our success without first defining what success really is.  And this is a dangerous oversight.  We could spend precious years (maybe even a lifetime) and countless dollars pursuing something that eventually we may realize we didn’t want.  Or, maybe worse, achieving what we wanted but doing so in a way that has left us and those around us broken.

Many of us have read books on how to be successful, but I can’t easily recall reading a definition of success – the end goal of our self-improvement endeavors – that really stuck with me.  I find this fascinating.  The majority of the definitions have some vague mention of goal achievement or monetary reward – with the exception of one (so far that I’ve come across).  This came from Andy Stanley, and he defined success as “Being respected the most by those who know me the best.”

That hits home for me.  If I’m honest with myself, I can fake elements of success with relative ease to those who may not know me all that well – but I can’t fake success to my wife, my kid(s), my close friends, my mentors.  They are the ones who know the true me, and its their opinions which I’m going to concern myself with the most.

I can set goals to earn X amount of dollars, to attain partnership status, to sit on certain boards, to live in a specific house, to drive a certain car – and in themselves, they aren’t bad goals.  But how I define success is the way I go about achieving them.  And its in that pursuit that only those closest to me will be able to truly see my heart and be able to respect, or not respect, me and my accomplishments.

So my question to you is simple: how do you define success?

I love the concrete definition of success – being respected the most by those who know me the best.  I can still set out to achieve whatever I feel God is calling me towards, but those achievements won’t be how I measure my success.  If I’m lazy, I’ll be know as lazy.  If I’m recklessly driven, I’ll be known as reckless.  I want my family, my mentors, and my closest friends to know my heart and to be able to tell the difference.

(That’s what Jesus is after, after all.  He doesn’t care as much about our outward actions as He does about our inward motives.)

So I thought you should know, Jack – that I will be measuring success by how you respect me for achieving, or not achieving, life’s ambitions.  Even if you don’t arrive at the same definition I have for success, I’d encourage you to define and refine your own definition so that you know what the end goal looks like.  Till next time, Jack.



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