What does it mean to be successful?

The creative process involves a lot of reading for me. Reading books, online articles, blogs and listening to Podcasts. Lately, I’ve been seeing many Facebook friends post articles that have titles such as, “13 Things Successful People Don’t Do” or, “10 Things to Start Doing to Become Successful”. Finally, my curiosity got the most of me, and I read a few of these articles.

Please take a deep breath before we proceed. You will need it.


Good. Here are a few of my thoughts on these articles:

  1. Success isn’t defined purely by how much money you make, or how much fame you have acquired. Shocking, I know! These articles were all based on the false premise that wealth makes you happy. The articles put the richest people on the world on pedestals, and exclaimed they must have it all together. I challenge this – what if we (as a society) measured success on how many positive influences a person had on others to define their success? I’m sure the list would look much different, and so would our society. We would rather look up to people like Harriet Tubman, Marie Curie, and our fourth grade teacher. We should examine what these people did to not only be successful in changing a bit of the world, but how their impact triggered others to be leaders of change and innovation as well.
  2. So, why is our society obsessed with defining success through possession of material objects, rather than lasting relational impacts? I believe this is because it is more comfortable to reflect on material (superficial) objects rather than examine our own shortfalls and what we could change to make our world a truly better place. It’s easy to tell someone to put money away into a 401K early in their career rather than tackle the subject of giving to others, for example. Giving hurts, and the people I listed above sacrificed much for the betterment of our society. Sacrifice is something our society doesn’t see as glamorous – but it should.
  3. How do you define success? After reading these articles some good did come of it. They challenged me to examine what my definition of success really is. What I realized is that I disagree with the articles entirely and believe they reinforce toxic lies about success. What do you think?

One last thing. As I stated earlier, sometimes I watch TEDx videos to get my creativity flowing. One TEDx I watched recently was based on research that has examined the lives of hundreds of men for 70+ years. Take a look for yourself – it’s only 12 minutes – and make your own opinions about what success means. You can visit the video here. We need more studies like this that examine what true success is, rather than superficial articles containing ways to hoard material goods. Lets start storing up prized memories with loved ones today!

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