What is success anyway?
Success has more meanings than you can imagine. Ask five of your friends, what success means to them, and you’ll get five different answers.
For a parent, success can mean being able to put kids through college. But, if you’re talking to a new parent, success can mean being able to make just enough money to have time to spend with the newborn.
Business owners will talk about success in the way commonly understood by most people – that is, with money. If the company is big, the owner is successful. If sales soar, the company is successful.
Business romantics will say if customers are satisfied, business is successful. But this is NOT always true. Business owners can be financially successful and be completely miserable on the inside.
For me, success is being able to live with the least amount of external influence possible, over how I choose to live my life. That means I want to be able to decide if I go to my office today or not; or to have the privilege to decide what to do for a living.
Although I have restrictions as anyone else (I may be able choose to live on NY’s 5th Street, but I can’t afford it), I pretty much decide WHERE my life goes and HOW it goes. So, one could say that I’m successful.
I could go forever talking about examples of what success means for me or for others, but you get the point. Now, it is time for YOU to answer: just to yourself, what is success to you? What does it mean? How does it look like? What feelings do you have when you think about you being successful?
As I don’t like to write without a goal, I want you to grab a piece of paper and a pen (please try to avoid your cell phone). Sit down and answer those four questions above. After you complete reading the article, I’ll ask you to do one thing.
5 Popular Myths About Success That Are Now Debunked
Myth #1: Success is a chain of well-made decisions; you control how you get there.
This is perhaps one of the most common myths about success. Fortunately, people are more and more aware that success comes from hard work. But it has its roots on failures and resilience.
Thanks to movies like Jobs, or The Social Network, we can get a glimpse behind the cameras of how big companies came to be. Or if you follow Richard Branson (Virgin’s CEO), you can learn how he ventured into countless businesses, just to fail.
The key with all of them has been to build something new, out of what worked, on each failed attempt.
If I had to write a kitchen recipe for success, I would say: in a cocktail shaker, mix equal parts of failure and resilience. Shake once. Adjust ingredients for taste. Never stop shaking again.
All great entrepreneurs have something in common. They took tremendous amounts of risk. They jumped out of any comfort zone. They failed multiple times before coming up with the idea you learned about on Twitter or Facebook. But they never stopped trying.
Myth #2: Success is determined by how much money you make.
I think I covered this topic quite well during the introduction on the myths about success. However, to get a little more literal, I’d like to go over the very definition of success:
According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, success is: b. favorable or desired outcome; also: the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence
You see how the attainment of wealth is an alternative meaning to success? Its root meaning is specifically related to “desired outcome”. A desire can be about anything.
If you had to take only ONE thing by reading this article, let it be that success is NOT about money. Success is to achieve YOUR desired outcome, no matter what it is. If anyone else thinks it’s worth it, it is YOUR desired outcome. Own it, achieve it, and live it.
Myth #3: You must be an expert to succeed.
I’m 38 years old, which means I grew up in a time when you needed a degree, a stable job, eventually an MBA, and to wait for your turn. I grew up during the time when the boss was always right.
I was 22 (living in Venezuela) when I was given the greatest opportunity of my professional career. I was just graduating from university, with a degree in Accounting, and I held a certification similar to what a CPA is in the U.S. I was called to my boss’ office and was told that because they needed a person with my credentials, I was the new Accounting Manager.
What they didn’t know was that I hated accounting. I was determined to do everything in my power to spend the least amount of time doing journals and supervising bank reconciliations.
So, with little over one year of experience, I started automating stuff and changing processes. Eventually, I designed a piece of software that allowed our department to process six times the number of transactions, with the same number of people.
My boss fought with me and my methods all he could, because he was the expert. He had 30 years of experience against me. But I kept going. Eventually, he was laid off and I went to a higher position.
It is NOT true that you need 10,000 hours of practice to master something. There is an abundance of tools, added to the speed things evolve these days, which allow you to learn at a much faster pace.
But the true core of the issue here is that you don’t need to be an expert. This is just one of the myths about success. You just need to know more than the average. The truth is that most people are distracted by social media, TV, and other stuff. If you focus on something, you can get better than the average.
Myth #4: You need (or don’t need) a degree and a 9-to-5 to be successful.
I had my reserves including this. But although it is one of the myths about success, going to college and working for a company does NOT undermine your chances to be successful on your own.
If anything, having the opportunity to go to college gives you what I believe is the most important thing: connections. People you meet during college will know you for life. And that my friend, can and will open important doors for you down the road – if you just keep in touch.
Meeting my wife, me writing for this blog, and my current success, are consequences of a friend I made when I did an MBA in 2006-2008.This friend came to me, and begged me to go to an interview with her boss/boyfriend. The day I started working at their company (which was a complete change of industry), I met my wife, and because of that industry, I moved to the U.S.
The same thing could happen with co-workers at companies you work for. To this date, I still get in touch with people I work with 15 years ago. We do stuff together, we help each other, and we discuss ideas with each other.
Myth #5: You have to set ONE goal and make everything else second to it.
This is the biggest of the myths about success. An interview with 19 successfulCEOs revealed that they put a ton of effort during the day – but they keep time for themselves, religiously. Successful people sleep, shower, workout, eat, and spend time with family.
It is simply NOT TRUE that you need to put everything into your desire, and leave everything else. That’s a recipe for burnout. True, sometimes you need to make a sacrifice. But sacrifices can’t be how you conduct yourself everyday.
Now, to end, get that paper you wrote at my request early on this article. Check your answers. Does success still look the same to you?