Dean Graziosi

What is Success and What Defines Success?

By Dean's Team
Man raising fisted hands in victory

If you were to ask 10 different people, “What is success?” each person would reply with a totally different answer. Some might define success as material things, like a fancy car or a big house. Others, like Dean Graziosi, might define success as things you can’t deposit into a bank account, like leaving a legacy or making an impact. 

If you look in a dictionary, success is often defined as “a favorable or desired outcome” or “the attainment of wealth, favor or eminence.” But is the concept of success truly so black and white?

In reality, what defines success is incredibly unique to each individual. And every person has a different idea about what being successful means. By the end of this article, you’ll have your own definition of success to inspire you to push forward.

So, What Does Success Mean?

All too often, the idea of success is lumped in with the concept of the “American Dream.” First coined by writer and historian James Truslow Adams back in 1931, the American Dream focuses on a “better and richer” life for anyone willing to work hard. But let’s be real: Anyone who’s actually worked hard knows firsthand that “better or richer” does not always define a successful life.

Like Dean says, “Happiness leads to success, not the other way around.” At its core, success is the ability to find happiness or fulfillment in life. True success is anything that sets your soul on fire or makes you feel complete. Success isn’t about the things that make your life better — it’s about what makes you feel better about your life.

Success can be the happiness you feel moving from a part-time job to starting your own business. Or, success can be the sense of wholeness you feel when your first child is born. Success can even be the spark of inspiration you feel when you move to a new place

In other words, true success is never tied to a person, place or thing. Success is a personal feeling that’s unique to you.

What Isn’t Considered the Meaning of Success?

Everyone has their own definitions of success. But as you define success, remember to focus on finding fulfillment. For instance, some people think success means having millions of dollars in the bank. However, these same people may not have family or friends to share their wealth with. Or they may be battling feelings of jealousy, anger or low self-esteem. 

At the end of the day, a lot of money still can’t buy happiness. A designer purse or luxury car can’t magically fix personal issues, like lonely feelings or low self-confidence. These items simply act as band-aids that provide temporary happiness, not genuine fulfillment. And when the basis of your success isn’t genuine fulfillment, it’s not true success. A successful life should center around feeling happy and whole — not flashy, expensive or worldly things. 

What Does Failure Mean?

When someone asks the meaning of success, the follow-up question typically has to do with failure. So, how do you define failure? If you look in a dictionary, failure technically has two definitions:

  1. A lack of success
  2. A lack of expected or required action

These definitions seem obvious, but they’re a bit misleading. What they don’t mention is this: It’s impossible to actually achieve success without failing first. Failure is an opportunity to learn what not to do in life or business. It’s a crash course in hard work, determination and the skills you need to succeed.

So, in reality, true failure doesn’t equal a lack of success. It equals a lack of effort. True failure is when you stop planning for your hopes and dreams, throw your hands in the air and yell, “I give up!” It’s when you become so put off by trying, that you stop working to succeed altogether. 

Remember, it’s up to you to create the life you envision for yourself and your family. When one door closes, it’s your duty to go knock on another one. Failure isn’t when you don’t succeed the first, second or tenth time. True failure is when you stop believing in yourself and the power of your goals in the first place.

Why Can Success Take So Many Shapes?

By now, it should be clear that everyone has a different vision of success. This is because success is very personal and relates to each person’s unique inner desires. So, what makes you feel happy and fulfilled may be totally different than what makes your friends, other solopreneurs, or anyone else feel happy and fulfilled. 

Likewise, what makes you feel successful now may be completely different in a few years. At this stage of life, success might mean working 12-hour days, making a huge salary and living in a penthouse in New York City. But 5 years from now, success might mean spending more time with your family, having a fruitful garden and giving back to your community. 

The reason why the idea of success is so flexible is that happiness is unique to each individual. And success is never linear — what you define as successful in this moment is subject to change in a few years or even a few months. Your personal definition of success will vary depending on your needs, background, goals and stage of life. 

There is No One-Size-Fits-All Definition of Success 

Success is like the perfect pair of jeans: There’s no one-size-fits-all definition. But more often than not, we hear about these “overnight success stories” on LinkedIn or Facebook. And suddenly, everyone’s rushing to repeat that same, exact formula for success. 

Spoiler alert: That idea of “success” probably won’t match your own definition of success. 

Truly, there are too many definitions of success to keep track. Take a look at just a fraction of the ways success can manifest in your life. 

1. Achieving Your Biggest Goals 

Rule #1 for how to be successful is to set goals. The only way to fail is to stop setting goals and working to achieve them. By goal-setting, you’re already halfway to success.

Goal-setting acts as a road map for the skills you’d like to learn, the career you’d like to build and the life you’d like to create. They serve as your North Star, guiding you each day. For example, you can set a long-term goal for career success — like landing your dream job or being featured on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list — and establish short-term goals that will help you get there. 

No matter your goals, putting that final checkmark on your to-do list can feel like the ultimate success. After hours of hard work, achieving your biggest goals can fill you with a sense of accomplishment and pride. These feelings of happiness are what success is all about. 

2. Surrounding Yourself with Good People 

One of the biggest habits of successful people is to surround yourself with good people. By good people, we mean those who remain positive and uplifting in times of stress. We’re talking about the people who are your biggest cheerleaders and largest support system. These people aren’t afraid to tell you when you’re wandering off path or acting out of character.

Good people can be your friends and family, or they can be your colleagues and coworkers. They can be entry-level employees or serve as CEOs of major companies. Regardless of their social status, good people can make you feel truly happy and fulfilled. And when you’ve found true happiness, you’ve found success.

3. Reaching Financial Security 

There’s a common misconception that reaching financial security automatically means you’re wealthy. Really, “financial security” means just that: feeling safe and secure in your finances. The comfort of knowing where your next meal or paycheck is coming from is a great success for most people. You don’t need a massive amount in the bank — just enough to make you feel secure and ready to face the future. 

4. Staying True to Yourself 

We’re sure you’ve heard the phrase, “Success changes people.” Well, we’re here to challenge that idea. Real success is defined by staying true to yourself! When you remain loyal to your core values and not fold under stress, it shows how strong of a person you are. And if you’ve never had to backtrack on your core values, that means you’ve likely achieved success in a way you can be proud of.

Sure, you will likely learn new skills along the way. You might even change your opinion on your own definition of success. But in the journey to success, staying true to yourself and your values is an accomplishment in itself. 

5. Doing Meaningful Work 

Let’s be honest: Everyone likes nice things. And after the year we’ve had, everyone can probably use a vacation! But to some people, like Dean, success isn’t nice things or fancy vacations. Success is making the entire world a better place.

This is why success often boils down to personal fulfillment through meaningful work. Success is giving back to the less fortunate, or sharing your knowledge or resources with other people. When you center your success around meaningful work, you can leave a lasting legacy — and the people you impact with your actions will carry on that legacy for you. 

6. Continuing to Educate Yourself 

There’s a reason why self-education should be your new normal — the key to continued success is to never give up on learning. The more you learn, the more you grow. And the more you grow, the more you can expand upon what defines your success.

For example, continued education can help turn your successful side hustle into a full-fledged business. Or, it can help you learn more ways to give back to your community, so you can continue making the world a better place. Even just the process of growing your knowledge bank can be happiness or fulfillment in itself. 

7. Living Life on Your Own Terms 

Some people don’t want to be tied down to a 9-5 day job or work for a boss. Some people want to live life on their own terms, and that’s what success means to them. Take successful entrepreneurs, for example. 

Most people think entrepreneurs are successful because they make a lot of money. In reality, these people feel successful because they built their own business or product from the ground up. They reached success on their own terms, using their own rules — and that fulfillment is their personal success. 

8. Being There for Your Loved Ones 

For those of us with a family or loved ones that depend on us, success can mean many things. Making our loved ones feel safe and happy or giving them a better life can be great successes. Sometimes, success can take the shape of just being present for the people you love. 

Seeing your baby walk for the first time or watching your niece graduate high school are major milestones that can make you feel successful. Other milestones could be going on an adult vacation with your siblings or taking an entire week off to spend time with your family. Small moments such as these create lasting memories that make us feel truly successful in life.

Write Your Own Success Story Today

Both in life and business, your version of success never needs to look like anybody else’s. What’s most important is that your definition of success is authentic to you. So, the next time someone asks, “What is success?” — tell them to look in their heart for what matters most to them. That is true success. 

What’s your definition of success?

Text it to Dean at 480-400-9019 and let him know you came from the blog.

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