What is Success? What Does A Successful Person Do?

“Don’t aim for success if you want it; just do what you love and believe in, and it will come naturally.” – David Frost

stairs walking up a mountain,  symbolizing success or hard workWhat is success? We all want to know, so we can define ourselves as successful when we get there. But I would argue that success is not a destination, not a certain level on a plane that we reach and can claim that we’ve “made it”; but a mindset and select core of principles that we put into place right from the start. In my opinion, success has nothing to do with monetary value or wealth. It is the opposition to the natural tendencies and forces that exist in life that attempt to push us to do what culture says is right, will bring you happiness, money, or fame. You can be “wealthy”, but quite unsuccessful; you can be “poor”, but quite successful. Did I lose you? Let me explain.

A successful individual is someone who is overall satisfied with his or her life. They pursue the passions of their heart and do not let fear or other’s opinions of them determine their actions. Successful people are constantly challenging themselves, constantly examining their life to see what areas need improvement. Generally, these types of people are wealthy, but it is not wealth that motivates them. Many people that society may label as “successful” are nothing more than greedy whores to a system that tells them to do whatever is necessary to get ahead, even if that means going against their values or hurting others in the process.

Happiness and success always go hand-in-hand. Human beings are naturally only truly happy when they are filled with purpose and are pursuing what they were born to do. When we stray from the path we know we’re meant to go down, there is a natural energy that arises within us that is disgusted with our decision and voices its opinion through our heart. Call that your soul, call that God, call it whatever you want, but know it exists to keep us away from the traps that the world sets out for us. We are most at peace when our outside actions perfectly match our inner feelings and motivations. Granted, it will likely be impossible to ever be perfectly aligned, but you can get pretty close.

When you wake up each morning and look in the mirror, you should be proud of that woman or man that is starring back at you. You may have the comfort of wealth, but if you are disgusted by what you see, can you really consider yourself successful? If you know that you have cheated the system, pushed down others to get ahead, took the easy path and cut corners, if you look at yourself and know you’re a phony, a fraud, and a liar, constantly in fear that the world is going to see the see through your outer shell, can you ever be truly happy? Absolutely not. That is not success; that is tragedy.

But success is a cultivator of wealth. Not because you’re seeking it, but because it follows success. Someone who is aligned with their inner self is going to love what they do, have drive, have passion and wake up everyday excited to make the world a better place. Their heart is in their work and with hard work, wealth typically follows. Wealth, however, can NEVER be your goal or motivator. If it is, you’re unsuccessful before you ever begin. Why? Because when wealth is your driving force, you will be willing to do whatever is necessary to obtain it, which immediately puts you against your inner self and makes you an opponent of happiness.

A successful person is a visionary, a light for the world, a lover, a fighter, a rebel, a leader, a builder, a guider, one who unites, one who divides, one who sympathizes, one who restores. They can be all these things at once because their main focus is using their gifts to make the world a better place. Sometimes that requires division, sometimes that requires discipline, and sometimes that requires praise or building another person up. A truly successful person is always at odds against people and culture, yet always works with people and culture in mind. The world hates successful people even if we try to pretend that we don’t because they are a light, and a light reveals our own darkness. A light challenges us to follow, when we’d prefer to stay in the comfort and ease of the dark.

I want to challenge the way we think of success. Success immediately equals wealth by culture’s standards; however, is goes far deeper than that. Success is using our gifts to the utmost of our ability and using those gifts to ensure that the world is a better place because we lived, because we loved, and because we had the courage to walk down the hard road rather than drift along the lazy river. Many successful people are wealthy, and there is nothing wrong with that. But wealth is not a qualifier of success, it is simply a typical byproduct of it. Take people like Jesus Christ, the Buddha, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., etc. Are these people “successful” by the world’s definition? No. They are absolute failures – losers even. Yet somehow they have changed the world in ways that few people ever can or will. Hate him or love him, Jesus is the most influential person to ever walk the earth, and I believe always will be. But he was a homeless, penniless man with practically no possessions to his name. Can you really call him or any of the people on the list a failure or unsuccessful? I hope not. They lived their life with beauty, with purpose, and with love at the forefront of their mind.

Rich or poor, success is when we live the life we know we were born to live and can wake up each day and love the face that smiles back at us in the mirror. Success is staying true to ourselves and the core set of principles that we hold dear, always fighting, yet always persisting in the face of opposition. Some days we are more successful than others, but success is not an overnight venture; it is a lifetime pursuit of love, truth, passion, and hard work.


photo credit: Todo area @ Mount Hiei in the fog @ Kyoto via photopin (license)

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