How To Define Success?

Christopher Isaac “Biz” Stone is the Co-Founder of Twitter, who once said: “Timing, perseverance and ten years of trying will eventually make you look like an overnight success.” But, how to define success? Is it a fluid concept? Well, I guess it depends a lot on who you are and what you want to achieve in life.

Being rich and famous would, you’d expect, put you in the category of those who made it to the top. However, if you look behind the glitz and showbiz appearance and behind the mansion’s door, what you’d see doesn’t always look like success. There are a lot of rich and famous people who are utterly miserable and unhappy. So, what’s the deal?

This article is my attempt to dig a little deeper into the subject and look at success from a different perspective.

Success Is an Iceberg

We have a tendency to describe certain successful people as lucky because they just happened to be born with a talent (that eludes the rest of us), and that talent and maybe a certain amount of luck, is what ultimately made them succeed. Certainly, talent and luck play a role, but if we look a little closer, we will find out, as Thomas Edison famously said, that “success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”

Success is an iceberg. What people see on the surface: confidence, wealth, beauty, relationships, seniority, often don’t see what is hiding below: persistence, failure, sacrifice, disappointment, good habits, hard work and dedication. This is beautifully depicted by @sylviaduckworth.

Author Joanne Reed
This is your quest
How to define success
Success is an iceberg
Success is an Iceberg

Success is About Overcoming Adversity

Most people fantasize about being, successful, rich or famous, they want the outcome but are not so keen on the perspiration-part.

The motivational speaker Les Brown was very eloquent when he spoke about struggle and adversity. What he explained in one of his memorable motivational speeches is that one of the greatest tragedies of our time is the way we perceive success:

“that is the belief that successful people just happened to be successful because they were lucky enough to have been born with some talent and that talent is what go them there, and destiny is what brough them to the finishing line.

That belief is wrong, because that kind of thinking takes the journey, the struggles to get to the top of the mountain and the setbacks and the pain and the fear and throws is all out of the window.

It completely mitigates what is most important.

In the real world, it doesn’t matter who you are. You are never entitled to a result. Victory is a product of the fight and the biggest favor you can do yourself is to progress through life’s ups and down and keep fighting the fight.


Struggle is perfection in progress. It is a sign that you are in the midst of what separates the great from the average. It is a necessity and it the most important step you will ever take, because 99% of people cannot see past it. The world sees struggle and hardship as the time to pack their bags, to walk away, to be intimidated.”

According to Marcus Aurelius, the personification of the Stoic Movement, “our actions may be impeded, but there can be no impeding our intentions or dispositions. The Obstacle is the way.”

Success Is a Boat with a Captain and a Crew

Society measures success in material goods or status, but this is a very shallow and narrow definition of success, there is a lot more to it than that. Earl Nightingale also known as the Dean of Personal Development spent some time thinking about what success is and he came up with a pretty good definition of success: “Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal or idea.” It means that any person regularly engaged in achieving something which they consider worthy is successful.

Earl Nightingale uses an analogy of a boat to explain this concept further:

“Without goals, you can spend a lifetime wandering aimlessly, letting yourself being carried in any direction that the crowds take you. Think of a ship in a harbor. There is a captain and there is a crew. Together they map the journey. They decide what route they are going to take, how long it will take, how many provisions they will have to take.  They make preparation for the voyage. This ship has a destination and will sail straight across the deep ocean of life reaching one port after another and it will get to its destination.”

Take another ship where there is no captain, no crew, no destination, and no preparation, this ship will likely end up nowhere, it may not even leave the port, or it may leave the port and be shipwrecked. Ultimately that ship is unlikely to succeed because it has no destination, no guidance, and it is the same with human beings.

To succeed on the deep ocean of your life remember to stay calm. Calmness is absolute confidence to be able to meet any crisis. The person who is calm has their course of life clearly marked on their chart. They have their hands on the helm and whether there is a storm or danger ahead, they are ready.

Author Joanne Reed
This is your quest
How to define success
Captain of my ship
I am the Captain of my Ship

When and how you will reach your destination doesn’t matter. Focus on the process and not always on the outcome and follow the advice of Maya Angelou:

“Do the best you can every day … until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

Success Is a Garden

To succeed, everything starts with an idea. “Your mind is a garden, your thoughts are the seeds, you can grow flowers or you can grow weeds.”

You need to know what you want to be and what you want to do. All you have to do is plant that seed in your mind and care for it by working steadily towards your goal and be sufficiently strong enough not to let setbacks defeat you in the accomplishment of your purpose.

Author Joanne Reed
This is your quest
How to define success
Success is an iceberg
“As you sow, so shall you reap” – Galatians, 6:7

The moment you start working on your goals, you are immediately a successful person, because you now belong to the very small percentage of people who know where they are going.

How to Define Success?

So, in summary, how to define success? Success is:

  • Success is an Iceberg.
  • Success is a boat with a captain and a crew.
  • Success is a garden.
  • Success is a schoolteacher because they want to be a teacher and feels a calling to be a teacher.
  • Success is a student who goes to school every day wanting to learn and develop themselves academically, physically, emotionally and socially by achieving good grades, by joining a sports team, by interacting with their friends and teachers in the pursuit of excellence with a caring attitude.
  • Success is a wife and mother because she wants to be a wife and mother dedicating herself to be the best wife and mother she can be.
  • Success is the working mother who dedicates herself to her professional career and also to raising her children (with some help) and doing both to the best of her abilities.
  • Success is a salesman who wants to become the top salesperson in his company and helps grow his organization.
  • Success is the corner shop owner who serves his community every day and who always wanted to have his own corner shop.
  • Success is the stay-at-home father who dedicates himself to raising his family whilst allowing his wife to pursue her career and being a supportive partner for his spouse.
  • Success is the family member who turned themselves into the main caregiver for a sick child, parent, or spouse dedicating their time to making that person’s day better.
  • Success is anyone who is deliberately doing a pre-determined job because they decided to do just that.

If you liked this post, you may also like:

The Gift of Clarity
Life is Better in a Bikini
Riding Motorbikes Makes Me Happy
8 Flavors of Love – Which One Are You?
Why Things Are Not Always What They Seem
Don’t Worry Be Happy – The Benefits of Music
Being in a State of Flow. The Key to Happiness?
A Compass to a Meaningful Life
Positivity vs. Negativity – Battle of the Fittest
How to Have Superpowers and Remain Resolutely Human.
#1 Spot! Sweet! Thank you to my French readers for keeping me there!
Understanding The Psychology of Willful Blindness
Goddess Athena – The Art of War

For more on this subject you can purchase my book ‘This is Your Quest’ online at BookLocker, from Amazon or from Barnes & Noble.  The Ebook version is available on Amazon (Kindle), Barnes & Nobles (Nook), Apple (iBooks) & Kobo. Or check out her Amazon Author Page here.

16 thoughts on “How To Define Success?

  1. A Great thought provoking post indeed..!! Got so much to learn from you.
    If you don’t mind, may I ask what success means to the author herself? What is your own parameter of success?

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.