The Straight Truth


Are you driven by success or money?

Defining what success means to you-and keeping that definition front and center when you make any important personal or career decisions-will make you more successful. It will also make you happier.

There are several people I coach who have made it a priority to exercise her or his independent, entrepreneurial spirit. When these individuals are autonomous and creating in their space of self-expression they shine and feel successful. Others I coach thrive and feel most successful when coaching and developing others in their company to their highest ability.

Why accept a job that stifles your inner entrepreneur when you have defined “being an entrepreneur” as critical to your success? You might get tempted by a big signing bonus and make snagging that more important than working autonomously when “money” isn’t even a part of what you consider a key to your success. If you think “Do what you love and the money will follow” is BS, don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.

It’s unlikely that any two people define success the same way. For some, it has a dollar figure. Others define success as a lifestyle money can buy: a house, a vacation home, a boat, season tickets to sports events or world-wide passes to ski resorts. Maybe it is owning and running a profitable company, being the boss, having it your way with many people working for you.

If you want to succeed but you don’t know what success is, you won’t achieve it. Or you won’t know it if you do achieve it. If you want to be successful, you need to know what “success” means to you. It’s different for every person.

Spend some time pondering the meaning of success – in both your personal life and your professional life. Sync the two definitions, and your quest for success will be more deliberate, organized, and achievable. To that end, you need to be completely honest with yourself about your intentions.

Is it more important to you to work for an organization that allows you to operate independently and feed your entrepreneurial spirit, or would you rather pocket a huge signing bonus, even it if means compromising your work style and a missed opportunity to work and develop under a fantastic CEO and amazing vision? Is it more important to make $250,000 a year, with work required every Saturday, or would you prefer to live more modestly so you can spend weekends with your children while they’re young? Tell the truth to yourself.

It might be difficult to admit your choices. Maybe money is more important than time with family. Maybe playing the line on ethics and exploiting others fits right in with “I would do anything” to achieve success as you define it. Just know that about yourself. Admit it, at least to yourself. It’s yours.

Whatever makes you successful and fulfilled, be accountable for it. If you know what you want, you can go for it.

Defining success is most useful when you write it down and update your truth regularly as your circumstances and preferences change. Look at it every day. Give your definition of success a majority vote whenever you face a major decision.

If your definition of success depends on a specific, steady income, let that guide your decision about whether to accept a job that pays commission only. If your definition of success includes time with family on weekends don’t pretend you don’t see what the job is going to require and rationalize “it won’t be forever.”

Your definition of success isn’t a limitation. It’s an honest statement of what you really want for yourself. That kind of statement can serve as an important reminder of what you value when your head gets turned by a temporary windfall that would require you to compromise your own success, as you define it.

Your unique definition of success is a springboard for you to answer this question: What is the gap between today and the day you are a success? For every success statement you write that you cannot give a score of 5 out of 5 to in present tense ask and answer: What am I going to do to close the gap?

Search for a mentor who you will reveal your definition of success to. Tell the truth about where the gaps are and be mentored to close those gaps with accountability. Don’t waste your mentor’s time. A mentor is someone committed to your success as you define it. They see what you show them and beyond. A mentor is a kind of personal coach for your human spirit and highest potential; your success.

The sooner you define success, the sooner you will be successful. A guideline: Write a definition of success for each part of your life: professional, financial, health, home life, and community. Don’t let anyone else influence you as you define it. Don’t give away your power to decide exactly what success is for you.

Two resources I’d recommend: The Definition of Success Exercise found here. Unpacking Myself podcast: MID-LIFE REFLECTION Neha Patel