What a buzzword.

Everyone wants it. Some people need it. They strive for it and yearn for it. Some people do questionable things to achieve it.

Photo: Gratisography

But what does it mean?

What does it mean to have a successful business? A successful career? A successful family?

Like so many things in life – it depends.

Mostly, it depends on who you ask. Success in my business means something different to me than success in your business means to you. Hell, I am working on three different business right now, and success for each one is different.

Here are just a few ways in which some people define success:

1. Power
2. People impacted
3. Money earned
4. Title
5. Company being acquired
6. Things created (businesses, products, processes, whatever)
7. Number of friends
8. Places visited
9. Happiness of children

I could keep going.

How many people have you heard talk about success by looking at someone like Elon Musk or Sheryl Sandburg and saying “I want to be successful like that?” Most of those people don’t want to be CEO or COO of a large corporation – they don’t want the work or the responsibility. They want the money. Or the title.

How many kids think they need to be a doctor or lawyer or CEO to be successful? Twitter_logo_blue

Let’s stop using the word success generically and please, for the love of god, let’s stop using it to mean wealth or title. It can be so much more than that.

When we say we want to be successful, why don’t we use a few more words and say what we mean?

Instead of: “I want to build Prodigy & Co to be a successful company.”

How about: “I want to build Prodigy & Co to be a company that helps thousands of big thinkers change the world and earn a lot of money, while bringing in over $1 million in revenue and establishing myself as a respected thought leader.”

That gives me something much more tangible to judge myself against. And it gives others a clear picture of how I define my success and whether or not they aspire to it.

Colleges shouldn’t say “we help students be successful in the real world” they should say “we give students the confidence and skills needed to not only find and maintain employment but to be the best at what they choose to do.”

I am guilty of using success generically, and of hoping that when I say I can help you become more successful, you assume I will help you earn more, get promoted, or sell your company for millions of dollars.

In our world of 140-character sound bites, it is easy to fall back on a single word to try and describe so much.


I want to do better, though. As a society, we should want to do better. We shouldn’t want people to feel unsuccessful – like they failed – if they don’t have money or a title.

Success comes in so many forms.

We should feel just as successful when we impact another’s life positively as when we get a pay increase. The quality of our relationships should matter just as much as how many people we consider to be friends.

Let’s change the rhetoric.

Let’s get specific about our view of success. Let’s say what we mean.


Tell me how you define success in the comments below!



*Photo credit: Gratisography