Because the world we live in simultaneously success-driven and overly-entertained, I’ve been giving a lot of thought recently about the meaning of success. When I feel “overly-entertained” I need a break from movies or TV or social media so I can become a real human again. Is it also possible for one to become “overly-successful?” Woof.
To answer my question, I consulted Google…because I’m a 20-something and I know better than to believe life was nicer in the good ole’ days when people used books to study and couldn’t find information with a few punches of a button. Back when the internet hadn’t ruined the purity of real words on real pages. But anyway, here are Google’s thoughts on success:
Billionaire Richard Branson believes success is about happiness. (Pretty standard answer, but likely true, at least in our society’s collective conscience since "happiness" has become such a standard answer when defining success).
Huffington Post co-founder Arianna Huffington says that money and power aren't enough. Also important to Arianna: well-being, wisdom, wonder, and giving. I think money and power would give me quite a bit of wonder, and I’d love to give away money because that seems like more fun than asking for it, as I do in my current line of work. Wisdom (I think) is something some people acquire with time. Other people never find it,, because they are limited in some way or another and are too afraid of their limitations to ever push past them, so they hang around and get stagnant, like old pickles or dirty socks.
Billionaire investor Mark Cuban says you don't need money to be successful. In an interview with Steiner Sports, he said: "To me, the definition of success is waking up in the morning with a smile on your face, knowing it's going to be a great day. I was happy and felt like I was successful when I was poor, living six guys in a three-bedroom apartment, sleeping on the floor."
(Hold on Mark: were you working toward something? Because sharing overcrowded living quarters with six guys seems like it’d be smelly and unappealing to us meager peasants who pay two grand for a one-bedroom apartment, woe are we. Plus, you have much monies now, so “be happy poor” falls a bit flat, coming from someone like you).
Legendary investor Warren Buffett values relationships above all else. That’s nice. And something people probably learn late in life, like in The Proposal, when Sandra Bullock is a complete workaholic and then realizes she’s lonely? Yeah, old story.
Legendary basketball coach John Wooden said success is a matter of satisfaction. That’s also nice, and leaves you with the age-old question that only you can properly answer: what gives you satisfaction? You probably find that out by trial and error. Going on some horrible dates, having some horrible jobs, or figuring out after years of darkness that you’re a damn swell painter. Who knew?
Acclaimed author Maya Angelou believed success is about enjoying your work. Ahhh Maya. I love her, I really do. She believes this because she enjoyed her work, and the world enjoyed consuming her work. Your work is (probably not) poetry, but she hit the bull on the horn here. Grabbed the horn’s bull? I don’t know.
Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates believes success is about making an impact on society. Of course, he does! Because that’s what he did, and he’s happy! I sort of love his sentiment, because what else are we good for, if not making our world a better place?
Spiritual teacher Deepak Chopra believes success is a matter of constant growth. Yes, yes, and yes. Constant growth means learning who you really are, and how to love yourself. Mmm so many good, squishy feels.
President Barack Obama aims to change people's lives. Yes, because he was president, and until recently that was a respected and highly desirable platform intended to change society for the better.
Inventor Thomas Edison recognized that success is a grind. An astute observation, from the father of light.
Popular author Stephen Covey said that the definition of success is deeply individual. Umm, yes. I think we’ve got that part covered.
Billionaire John Paul DeJoria sees success as working hard — all the time. I guess, if you’re the kind of person who draws deep satisfaction from your work. If you're a gas station attendant or a professional fly-swatter, this may not apply to you.
This comprehensive list came from Business Insider: Authored by Shana Lebowitz, and published on March 22, 2017.
Read her stuff, will you?
Okay, so that was only one source. But when I typed, “What is success?” into Google, the first search result was the dictionary definition, which looks something like this:
My favorite part of this definition is in the first synonym section: Hollywood Ending, because that’s who everyone looks toward to learn how to be successful, and that’s what we think success is. The dictionary says so. But hey you! You, reading this blog post! Do you think that’s true? You don’t have to answer now, but it would be fun if you yelled YES! Or NO! at the top of your pretty pink (or black, if you’re a chain smoker) lungs to see how people around you react. I highly recommend doing this on a bus or subway. Not in a plane, because planes are stagnant air tubes and everyone hates that enough already.
One last thing about success. Abraham Lincolns is an American idol, right? Not the singing type. People love the man. There’s a ginormous statue of him in Washington DC. He’s on the penny for God’s sake, and he inspires widespread pride throughout the state of Illinois, even though he was born in Kentucky. Anyway, he’s a more reputable source than I am, and Honest Abe’s take on success is this, “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.”
Take ownership of your shit. If you try and fail, try again. If you spend your whole life trying, at least you never gave up.
Tweet me at @sarahmac_attack and tell me your best worst definition of success.