Soundview Executive Book Summaries

What Is Success?

It seems like three-quarters of the business books we receive for review at Soundview are in some way about Success. We all want to be successful don’t we? But of course this brings to mind the underlying question – What is success?

Webster’s Dictionary gives us a clue. The first definition is “a degree or measure of succeeding” – there’s a circular definition for you. But the 2nd meaning sheds some light, “favorable or desired outcome.” So, there isn’t a “set in stone” meaning for what success is, because it’s based on the outcome that someone decides is “favorable” or “desired.”

Of course, as you read the latest success-oriented business book, the author will use his definition of success and then tell you how to get there. For some it’s about money, gaining personal wealth (Getting Rich Your Own Way). For others is about the success of the company, increasing market share and shareholder equity (Blueprint to a Billion). Or perhaps is about power, being the one in charge (The Next Level). And a new trend in business measures success by what’s good for the planet, or corporate responsibility (The Triple Bottom Line).

But if success is gaining a desired outcome, shouldn’t it be your desired outcome instead of what some author, or company, or government tells you? We can so easily be dragged onto the treadmill of life. Perhaps when you were young your parents or a favorite teacher defined success for you. Then upon entering college success was defined by your professors or peers. Then it’s off into your career and success is defined by your boss, colleagues, or perhaps your spouse. In this scenario we could fall headlong into retirement, never having defined success for ourselves.

I greatly appreciated John Maxwell’s perspective on success in one of his recent “A Minute with Maxwell” videos. Maxwell would by most people’s definition be a successful person. But a while back he took six months to work out his own definition of success. Here is what he came up with: “When those who are closest to you and know you the best, love and respect you the most.”

Notice that there’s nothing in this definition about money, power, company goals, or other’s expectations. It’s all about the love and acceptance of those you value the most. This should stand as an example to the rest of us to stop and consider whose definition of success we’re pursuing, and to take the time to come up with our own.


1 Comment so far
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I agree. My most successful times have also been my most financially hard times.

Comment by mazemangriot

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