Success Can Only be Defined by You

Many years ago I was helping with a Dale Carnegie Course in Effective Speaking and Human Relations. Those classes are often made up of a very diverse group of people at varying stages of their lives and careers. They come from all walks of life and all income levels.

 

Even though I have not been in a Dale Carnegie class in many years I can vividly recall many of the participants. But one participant stands out above all others. He stands out because he caused me to redefine the meaning of success in my life. 

 

He was a senior level executive at one of the world’s largest manufacturing companies. He was a rarity. Some people were “sent” to a Dale Carnegie class by their organizations as a last ditch effort to “fix” them. But I’d never seen someone as his level required by their company to attend. 

 

This guy was one of the older people in the class and in every way I measured success at the time he was a huge success. Multiple houses, fast and fancy cars, a big title and a lofty position. He made tons of money. The guy pretty much looked and acted like the epitome of success.

 

As someone “required” to attend he didn’t have much to say in the first couple of weeks. He obviously didn’t want to be there but as is common in a Dale Carnegie course he was drawn out of his defensive posture in short order. 

 

As he began to open up during his presentations the tone and topics of his 2 minute talks (every Dale Carnegie Graduate is VERY familiar with 2 minute talks) changed dramatically. His focus moved from being all about himself to being about his family, especially one of his daughters. 

 

In his rush to succeed he had left his family behind and among his resentful family his adult daughter was most resentful of all. They rarely spoke. 

 

In week eight of that twelve week course he made a commitment to repair his relationship with his family and especially his daughter. At the final session the “graduates” are allowed to bring a guest along. This guy was so very proud to be accompanied by his daughter. 

 

As he delivered his final two-minute talk about what he got out of the course he said he learned a lot about himself and people in general. He said his relationships at work were much better and far more productive. 

 

But through his tears what he said he “got” from the class was his daughter back in his life. He said that for the first time in his life he felt like a success. He had a completely different outlook on what it meant to be a success. He said that for him success was no longer about what he had in his life but about who he had in his life. 

 

Dale Carnegie Instructors are supposed to help people change their lives, not the other way around. But lots of things changed for me that night, my definition of success was changed almost entirely. 

 

That was the last night I worked for any company. Since that night I’ve worked at a company but I’ve only worked for my family. By the way, I believe that makes me a much more effective asset for my employer, my customers and my colleagues. I get to go to work everyday and do something for the people who matter most in my life. There’s no better motivation than that.

 

That change in mindset has changed almost everything else too. I certainly could have had “more” but I couldn’t have had “better.” Some people would say I could have achieved more or made more or been more but those people are trying to apply their definition of success to me. 

 

My participant in that Dale Carnegie Course was 30 years into his career before he considered himself a success. Thanks to him I learned I could never succeed by chasing someone else’s definition of success. 

 

Neither can you!

 

Don’t allow anyone to tell you what success is “supposed” to look like in your life. If you can look at yourself in the mirror and smile back, if you are comfortable with your decisions and your actions, if you have even a handful of people in your life that matter to you and you matter to them, well then you are one of the most successful people ever to live. 


At least according to me.

Where Success Comes From – Part Two

Very successful people are not necessary different than less successful people, they just do different things.

Success comes from doing. 

I could just leave it at that and this post, while very short, would still be pretty good. But it’s really not as simple as just doing something to succeed. In order to succeed you must do the right somethings and you need to do them at the right time. 

Doing something may make you busy but being busy doesn’t make you successful. Doing the right something makes you productive and being productive is very likely to lead to success.

So what are those right “somethings” that successful people do? I shared 6 of these “somethings” in part one of this post, the final six are highlighted now in part two. I found the graphic that accompanies these two posts online and I’d give credit to the person who created it but I still have no idea where it originated. While I didn’t create it and despite a few grammatical errors, I think the 12 “somethings” are absolutely spot on. 

So here are the 6 more “somethings” that successful people do…

Successful people keep life simple. They seldom make anything harder than it needs to be. When communicating they don’t count their words, they weigh them. If four words will convey their message then they don’t say five. If a goal can be reached in 7 steps their plan won’t have eight. They don’t worry about things that happened in the past and they don’t borrow worry from things that might not ever happen. They have a strong focus on what they are doing right now.

Successful people focus on continuous improvement. Instead of looking for a way to improve something 100% they look for ways to improve 100 things 1%. They make those improvements every single day and they are never satisfied with “good enough.”

Successful people know how they are doing. They track and measure their progress, usually on a daily basis. They know which actions produce the greatest results and they know which activities cause waste. They know when they are getting better and they know almost the very moment they fall into a rut. They use their goals to get themselves back on track towards success.

Successful people know that their attitude is their choice. They also know that every area of their life is easier if the CHOOSE a positive attitude. Successful people do get down, they just pull themselves back up more quickly than less successful people. They accept their mistakes as an opportunity to learn and then they move forward. 

Successful people invest their time with people who can help them succeed. They stay away from the nattering nabobs of negativism. The most successful people have a mentor or a coach who cares about them enough to be honest with them about their performance in all areas of their life. Successful people embrace people with opinions that are different than their own because they understand that they can’t learn as much from people who already think just like they do. 

Successful people have balance in their lives. They understand that sacrificing their personal life for business success is something less than full success. They understand that when success comes at the expense of other people it is success that is probably not worth having. They also know that the best way to increase their success is to share it with others. Truly successful people are successful in all areas of their life. 

If you’re like me you’ve likely seen at least one of the twelve “somethings” that you need to work on. I hope you do because success for you is unlikely unless YOU make it happen!

 

Understanding Success – Part Eight

Successful people get it. They simply understand some things that less successful people seem to have a hard time grasping. The things they understand are the “it’s” of success. 

This is the eighth and final post on Understanding Success. This is not a complete look at all the “it’s” required to succeed, there are in fact many more and the series could actually go on indefinitely. The goal of this series has not been to get you thinking about success, it was written to help you do the things that successful people do and less successful people don’t.

If you’ve followed this series you will have undoubtedly noticed that one thing I’ve stayed away from is defining “success.” 

I’ve avoided it because truly successful people understand this absolutely undeniable fact: success is personal. 

If I lined up 100 people in a room I’d likely hear 100 different definitions of success. There would be some commonality in the definitions but there would also be widely varied opinions on what success actually is. 

So I’d say this about YOUR success…. the heck with what other people think about YOUR success. If you want to do something with your life then do it. If one of the commonalities of success is high self-esteem, and I think it is, then you should know that no one, absolutely no one, can make you feel inferior without your consent. 

It makes no difference what you do or how much you get paid to do it. What you do and how much you get paid to do it is only about making a living, successful people know it takes more than a job and money to make a life. 

Your success, and what you do to make yourself a success in completely your responsibility. Don’t let other people’s opinions cloud your personal definition of success.

You’re a success if you say you’re a success!

Now the caveat, it comes in three parts.

There is a baseline for success, this baseline must be in place before you should even consider calling yourself a success. The baseline is this: if your success is personal then so is your lack of success. 

You must accept responsibility, full responsibility, for your shortcomings before you accept any credit for your success. If you’ve earned your success then you’ve earned any lack of success too.

Here’s is the second part of the caveat. If your smart enough to use some sort of device to find this post then you’re smart enough to understand that the basic concept of success doesn’t mean sitting around on the couch all day, living off of family, friends, or “the system” while wasting your God-Given talents and gifts. 

To be considered a success you must accomplish something more than simply existing. What that something is can only be determined by you but never fool yourself into thinking that nothing is something. To succeed you must do something tangible.

The final part of the caveat is this: you must achieve success legally and ethically. It is possible to have the appearance of success through illegal and unethical practices but at least according to my personal definition of success that’s not real success….and oh by the way, if you think something might be unethical then it most likely is.

As Stephen Covey said, begin with the end in mind. Focus on what you what to be remembered for, that’s most likely where your efforts toward success should be directed.