What is success? That might be a simple question on the surface, but, deep down, we all know that it means different things to each of us. That’s because there’s no one size fits all answer, as some people value money over freedom, corporate titles over startup glory, and leadership over collaboration.
While there’s no definite way to define what success is, we at least tried to figure out how a number of professionals look at the word. That’s why we reached out to colleagues, former coworkers, friends, family, acquaintances and, well, anyone else who would talk to us about what success means to them.
Thanks to email and the power of LinkedIn, take a look at what each person said success meant to them, and notice how different the replies actually were. What is success? You’ll have to figure that out on your own, but at least some respected professionals can help you try and get on the right path.
We previously asked professionals what makes the difference between a good and great leader — which led to some solid insight. This time, we get an idea as to how some people measure success; so take a look at what they had to say.
MANDY VICE (Digital Marketing + Social Media Specialist)
“Being content in my life, but always, always wanting more. Whether that be more money or more experiences, I don’t like settling. However, there is something calming about being content. If I’m content with how things are going, I consider that success. But always know that there is more that you could have if you are willing to; like taking more risks.”
NICHOLAS SPIKE (Senior Vice-President)
“There isn’t a single definition of success, as everyone has their own goals and ways to achieve them, both personally and professionally. Personally, I want my family to enjoy a better life than I did, and professionally, I want to push myself to become a little better at what I do every single day.”
TIM EAGAN (Business Development Executive)
“Growing each day with a purpose.”
MEREDITH BODGAS (Editor-in-Chief)
“Success, to me, is setting out to achieve something. For me, it was becoming the editor-in-chief of a woman’s magazine — and doing it, while still having time for the people I love. And making enough money to live comfortably, even though I can’t afford a luxury vacation once a month.”
PATRICK GEVAS (Vice-President)
“What is success? For me, it means two things: Am I confident that I’ve made a difference, and can I afford the life I want to live? If I can answer ‘yes’ to those, then I’m successful.
“What’s important is to find something that you can be passionate about that can also help to pay your bills. There was a time in my life where I was making more money than I ever had, and I was miserable. The work didn’t matter and I was a cog in a huge machine, and I was easily replaceable. I was also working constantly, which left little time to enjoy the money I was earning, let alone share it with friends. I’ve always wanted to feel like my input matters and I can put ideas into action without being stifled. I also don’t want to have to worry if I run over a nail and need to get a new tire, or make some updates to my closet.
“The other piece to success, for me, are my relationships and making sure I put the work in keeping my friendships strong with my family and spouse.”
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JENNIFER A. GARRETT (Author of Move the Ball, High Performance Expert & Football Strategist)
“This is a great question because success means different things to different people. For me, success isn’t about how much money you make. It’s about the difference you make in people’s lives. Sure, there are accomplishments in my life that people would look at and might categorize me as being ‘successful.’
“For example, I have seven college degrees, have worked in executive level positions in Fortune 50 companies (Boeing and General Electric), am an Army Judge Advocate (lawyer), a published author, a single parent with five children, and I’m a third-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. While I’m certainly proud of these achievements, how I really assess my level of success is not tied to these things; nor is it tied to how much money I have in my bank account.
“My definition of success centers around how much of an impact I’m able to make in the world. Instead of aspiring to make a living, I believe we should all aspire to make a difference.
“For example, a successful person doesn’t utilize social media to impress people, but uses it to positively impact others and drive positive change. Sometimes we fail to realize or forget that the impact we can make is bigger than we think it is. To make an impact, you don’t have to be brilliant, rich, beautiful or perfect. You just have to care enough to take action and view each interaction as an opportunity to make a difference.
“So for me, that is how I measure success. It’s about how much you positively influence, enable and empower others in life.”
BEN HOLTHUS (Financial Advisor)
“We all define success differently.
“Over the years, I’ve learned more about what’s truly important to me. For me, it’s more about striving each day to be the best version of myself — a dad, a husband, a friend, an employee, a leader, etc. — in all that I do. I want to continue to grow and improve every day, while being grateful for what I have.”
ALAN BROWN (Co-Founder and CEO at DNA Seattle)
“This may sound lame, but I measure success by the degree to which I feel happy and fulfilled. I have two teenagers, and when they were young, I spent way too many years coming home after work without anything left to offer. I left every ounce of myself at the office. Those were too many years when I didn’t bring everything I had to my family. Today I try to do better and walk in the door with a level of satisfaction, happiness and fulfillment that I can bring to my kids. Because, in the end, that’s all that matters.”
LAUREN HOLT (Senior Account Executive)
“I love the quote by Dolly Parton that says, ‘Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.’ I define success by having a fulfilling career, making enough money to live comfortably (everyone’s benchmark is different), and being able to enjoy life with friends and family; like traveling, trying new restaurants, exploring new places, going to the beach, exercising, etc.”
GREGG ROSENZWEIG (Creative Director + Managing Editor)
“To me, true success is gauged by the love that surrounds a person in their lifetime. Shared experiences with friends, a hug from my wife for no reason, or a laugh with my 12-year-old. Sure, having financial freedom eliminates stress, but the moments that truly define success for me aren’t reflected in a bank statement or follower tally. It’s all about the happiness, contentment and exhilaration we get to feel during our short time on this planet.”
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AMBER BELUS (Facilities Assistant)
“To me, success is thriving in a position that you’re passionate about; whether that’s a career, being a stay-at-home parent, or otherwise. Whatever makes you want to get out of bed in the morning, that’s success.”
THOMAS BOBSON (Marketing Director)
“Financial comfortable, with a fulfilling job, and a healthy social life. It isn’t about social media popularity among strangers. It isn’t about millions of dollars that can breed greed and pretense. It’s about looking in the mirror without financial stress while being happy in the morning before work, and happy in the evening when you’re headed towards friends and/or family.”
JACKIE O’SULLIVAN (Media Specialist)
“What is success? To me, success is happiness. Whether or not it’s money or Instagram followers, whatever makes your heart happy is the definition of success. To me, I like to be acknowledged for good work. I feel successful knowing that I give my family my all, and that, at work, I’m mentally firing on all cylinders to make sure things are done right.”
AUSTIN CANTWELL (Founder & Senior Managing Partner, Digital Marketing Agency)
“What is success? For me, I don’t think there’s one major benchmark that I define as being successful. I have a lot of life goals, and as I meet them, I define that as a success.
“Specifically speaking to career goals, I define success as the continued ability to successfully ‘work for myself’ and starting a business. I’ve always been driven to experience life beyond a normal 9-to-5 job and working for someone else. I want the flexibility in my schedule to spend time with my family when I want to. I want the joy of building businesses and celebrating successes with others. I want to get in a better position where I can help others. As I continue to grow my business, I’m meeting these goals, which I define as successful.”
ERIC MAURY (Associate Creative Director + Copywriter)
“For me, success is having financial freedom. It’s the only goal worth chasing, because, once you have financial freedom, you can chase whatever inspires you. Whatever makes you wake up and get out of bed is what you work towards. That sounds like the dream to me.”