What is success? Is it money, power, or perhaps fame and recognition? Is it some combination of all of the above - or maybe none of the above?
To me, success means happiness. Happiness that stems from achieving the kind of life that each and every person strives for. A life where a person is happy to be who he/she is - at peace with the various aspects that comprises the person's life - family, work, friends, etc. That said, it would be obvious to infer that every person should have his/her own barometer for success. Unfortunately, that is not so. It is rare to find someone who knows what success looks like for him/her - something illustrated by the conversation below.
A colleague of mine pulled me aside one day and asked me,"Why are you still working here?"
"What do you mean?", I retorted back in return.
"You know, you've studied and worked in the US for so many years. Why on earth would you work here? You should be doing something else - something more worthy of what you have studied and your experience".
I didn't know what to say. Curious to know what he really meant, I took him for a cuppa and told him that I was really interested to know what he thought I should be doing. After all, it's always good to have a different perspective - especially on something as important to me as my career. First, I gave him a quick elevator pitch about my background, what I wanted to be (as a professional and a family man) and how I hoped what I was doing now would help me in the future. Then, I asked him what he would do differently if he was me.
However, I was in for a big disappointment. After listening to me, my colleague told me that he didn't know what he would do differently. Hoping to understand where he was coming from, I asked him what he considered to be success. I wanted to gauge his understanding of success and how he hoped to reach his ideal. His discourse reinforced my belief that most people have no idea what he/she really want to achieve in his/her life. Who doesn't want to be known as the CEO of a large company or become the next Elon Musk? However, what people probably don't realize is the work, the dedication and the passion that is required to actually become one. They have no clue what fame and success entails and what needs to be done in order to reach their seemingly ultimate goal.
I believe a large part of this stems from the lack of thought people put into what is important to them in life. Very few people - even those that have spent a lifetime working - can truly express whether they are successful in life. What does success mean for a person? Is it to have a happy family life, financial independence, or even fame and fortune? Is it better to have a good work-life balance and yet be a middle manager or would it be better to be Indra Nooyi and yet not have the time to spend that she may like to spend on family? Is it better to run a humble business that allows you to have a comfortable life - or do you need to become one of the titans of industry? To some, having a comfortable middle class life could be more desirable than a fast paced, high stress life of a McKinsey consultant or a Wall Street banker. However, do people know whether they meet his/her idea of a successful person or not?
In a following post I will go through a set of tools that are taught to assist people to understand themselves better - so that they can ultimately define success for themselves.
In the meantime - I'd love to hear back from you folks about what you think success means to you and how you have managed to define it yourselves.