Success. It’s such a small word with big consequences.
An Internet search on Dictionary.com defined success as, “The accomplishment of an aim or purpose.”
Success can also mean accomplishing one’s goals, or attaining wealth, position or honors you have striven to attain.
Success looks different for everyone. Of course being successful is what everyone strives for, but not the outcome everyone achieves. We each have to define what success looks like to us. How do we know if we are successful if we have not defined it in our own terms?
Defining success is like defining a goal. How do you know you have “made it” if you don’t define what “made it” means for you. Often we define our success by comparing ourselves to others. We seem to think that others have to fail in order for us to succeed. Success is not limited.
It does not mean that there will be less success to go around when someone succeeds.
What does success look like for you? Have you ever taken the time to look at your life and set the next challenge you want to take on? Have you plotted a course to achieve this goal? Many of us stumble through life aimlessly drifting along without ever thinking about success. We may be happy with our lives, but have not defined what our successful life would look like.
Being successful actually takes drive, ambition and work. It entails numerous failures and the ability to come back from those failures and continue to strive for success. Thomas Edison made 1,000 attempts at inventing the light bulb and considered those attempts as another step to success, rather than 1,000 failures.
When I think of the tenacity it took to continue going after what most of us would consider 1,000 failures, it shows the passion and mindset Edison had to get to his success. Colin Powell said, “There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure”.
It is important to define success in our own terms. When SpaceX set a goal in 2016 to launch a $60-million dollar rocket containing a $200-million payload and it exploded on the launch pad, some saw that as a spectacular failure; however, in the same year they landed four rockets on ocean barges and two on dry land. When things do not go according to plan, it is usually easier to give up then take the time to evaluate what went wrong, what went right and what will make the difference for success. Obviously, Elon Musk’s team figured out what went wrong on the launch pad in order to have the follow up successes. This success is a big spectacular event where the whole world watched a rocket land on an ocean barge. For the average person, that is not what success looks like for them; however, it does not mean they are any less successful.
For entrepreneurs, they may look at success in terms of their bottom line. Once they achieve certain financial milestones, they have made it. Success can be defined in so many other ways. If we just focus on money, we lose sight of the bigger picture in life. Striving to make the bottom line at all costs while disregarding people, the environment and the community, may provide short-term prosperity, but once again, it has the “I win” mentality while putting down or disregarding the effects on others.
I think the Boomer generation, and those before, defined success by the house they owned, car they drove, status they attained, etc. The stress that people faced trying to keep up the façade of success reared when the latest housing bubble occurred in 2007. Foreclosures, repossessions and bankruptcies became the norm as the desire to “seem successful” came crashing down with the realization that many defined success in a way that truly was not realistic with the life they were living.
I do like the words of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi who said, “Problems or successes, they all are the results of our own actions. Karma. The philosophy of action is that no one else is the giver of peace or happiness.” You may believe in a higher power, but you have to heed the advice and take action. I think one must stay true to oneself. Find your passion and define success on your own terms.
Nancy Peltonen is president and CEO of the Greater Palm Bay Chamber of Commerce.
Columnist series are sponsored by weVENTURE at the Florida Institute of Technology College of Business. weVENTURE has locations in Melbourne and Rockledge. The Center is funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. For more information, visit weventure.org or call 321-674-7007.