Wait, but What Is Success?

“I have always had the view that how successful you are is really a function of how you deal with failure. If you deal with it well and you persist, you have a high probability of being successful”. I have recently come across this quote from Bill Ackman, and thought how right it is. But then, I question what is success in the first place? How much of what we call success is really defined by our real selves? How much of it is nature vs. nurture?

When your successful life definition is vague or reactively shaped based on external factors such as other people, society, culture, etc., you would have a high likelihood of feeling dissatisfaction or discontent in your life. Benchmarks that you subconsciously set on random dimensions of life will make you want more of things that has nothing to do with your root-expression and you would not even know why you want it. The more I question this, the firmer I believe that the definition of success should be coming from each person’s root expression. It should really come from a conscious reasoning exercise that would also take to reset some irrelevant other-people or society driven rules.

I have recently found myself checking for an Ivy League online part-time leadership program, but I have not had any clear answer for why. Just a tick-box of a success definition that I have inherited from society. Of course, I am not against these programs, but first I had better answer if this serves any of my own success definitions.

Firstly, I believe success is journey, a journey which you keep building on. I personally define my own success as becoming a better person in the dimensions that I have selected in my life. And I know some of these dimensions will probably change over time. But the first step is identifying what is your sincere success. When you don’t define them, you skip what part and start from how part by reasoning by proxy of others. What you do is actually just planning how you can be like X person that you think is Successful. Like your friends/ colleagues are doing MBA, so you feel inadequate if you don’t. Everyone is eating vegan/ keto/ gluten free, you feel an urge to do so. This follower mindset could be okay for some areas that you don’t see as important. You don’t have to spend big mental effort in every single dimension of your life. But for some core areas that should bring your life fulfillment, happiness or success on your own terms, it is a ‘should-have’ practice. For example this year, I set my success dimensions as learning more through reading, getting physically stronger, be more compassionate to myself and more respectful to my boundaries, identifying my core values and principles, enjoying everyday at the fullest with little joys no matter where I am and despite uncertainties. I did not know if some of these things would bring me happiness or not, but you never know without trying. I plan each of these dimensions: which reading apps I will use, which books I want to read, which trainer I will follow for my workouts and when I will do it, making my dish plate just look more esthetic and serving my meal with music everyday, doing some simple act of kindness to feed my core values etc. All these littles steps are becoming your habits and therefore your life. And I simply keep the ones that bring me fulfillment and happiness.

It is also key to monitor these with measurable check points or conscious practice. After I have tried to a point that I can call that these become my habits, then I assess what is next to start or stop. It is like a constant iteration, controlled test, doubling down on what is working for you just like product management.

But sometimes, I know what I need is just doing nothing without any productivity pressure. And that is also fine.

Eventually it is your own life that you should live, succeed and fail on your own terms.


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