Success is an interesting concept.  Even more interesting when you make the effort to decide if you are successful and at what level of success you’ve achieved.  To further blow your decision making ability on the topic, imagine the thought of if you should, could or would achieve more success.

In order to determine the level of success we’ve achieved or can achieve, we really need a definition of success.  In the Wikipedia definition, this is said to be referred to be a level of social status (respect), achievement of a goal, or simply, the opposite of failure.  We’re move back to why failure can mean success but for now, we’ll continue on defining, or attempting to define success.

With these defining points, we should be able to establish a few things that can equate to being successful.

  • Social media notables such as a lot of people follow you on Twitter, Facebook friends or other social networking tools?
  • Achievement of awards at work, in your specific field, peer awards, advancement in the form of promotions, new jobs that move to move visible and higher visible positions?
  • Lacking the level of failure in your career that has prevented you to advance or achieve success in even tasks.  Again, we’ll talk about failure a bit later and why this should be, in some cases, reversed.

Do these things equate to success?  Can we simply say, “I have a few of those so I’m successful” Personally, I do not believe that is so and we’ll see why.

Unfortunately, in the real world of careers, we have very little to base what success is for one person.  There are peers and notable success stories that we can draw from to base a formula for success but, every person is different.  Since ever person is different, we all perform at different levels, achieve different steps in a career at different paces and furthermore, we all retain our own self-esteem, ambition, and what is gratifying in much different ways.  It’s a fact that many reading this and many that think they have completely been successful, say they have been.  That could be true and it may not be true.  For example, a highly egotistical mindset can cause faults in being successful verses actually knowing you are successful.  An ego goes a long ways and takes many different paths in success.  Some people take control and manage having an ego of what they have accomplished based on the fact they have the success based on achievements, self-worth, respect and peers that look to them as a success story.  Those peers then base their own path of success on those people.  Others in the ego mindset may simply think they are successful based on the fact, they have an ego.  The ego gets in the way and actual causes a blocking scenario between real successes being accomplished, in many cases.  No matter how you want to argue the facts, an ego in this manner can affect a person in simply thinking they are too good for certain achievements, respect or advancement, which they equate to success.  The point and why we discuss the ego factor is, it’s a perfect example of how we can say one person over another completely changes what success is and it makes a large difference in how someone can truly feel successful based on how the ego is formed.  Now, most will agree that an ego does no one any good.  You may even achieve great success with an ego but in many cases, it’s alone and recall back that social status or respect is a part of success.  One that I feel is an important factor, no matter if that social factor is team members, social networking media, consultants, clients and so on.

Achieving social status or what I refer to as respect, does not mean it revolves around something like Twitter.  It truly should be the peers directly in contact with you daily, weekly or monthly.  In consulting for example, a social status is part of how the consultants and clients around you relay respect and a high level status being held in their views of you and your abilities.  For consulting, that is a sought after achievement and is a high success factor.  At least, I hope it is for most consultants.  This also relates to regular employment in the same manner.  Your team, company or management are all your peers and how they hold your status or respect for you in the company is a factor in success.

I mentioned the fact that we are all different earlier and the fact that we have little to base success on based on that fact.  First, all of this is a mindset.  How do you view your ability, your status, your achievements and advancements in your career?  Those are important questions that you should be able to answer, without an ego, quickly.  There is also the materialistic factor.  This varies from person to person but in reality, we work and form careers in order to support our lives.  That may mean family income or the ability to purchase some widget because you advanced and received a raise.  You probably are seeing just how hard it may be for us to determine what success is based on each person having so many different views on what success is, due to how we see it.  Don’t worry, there really is a way you can base your success.

Basing your success should factor in a comparison of others in your field, how far you’ve gone in the career in the form of advancement and of course, how you feel about the career.  How you feel about yourself, probably the most critical factor.  Let’s ask some more questions.

  • Do you feel good about where you are?
  • Do you think you are as good as you can be in your job or field?
  • Do you think that fancy car means you are successful?
  • Does a big house or boat and still putting your kids through college spell success?

All of these can be answered with yes.  Again, it’s based on you and how you see it. In my own career, success can be looked at by awards, advancement to respected companies, being respected internally on consistent basis in that company, having a high level of successful projects and so on.  Success in my career could also mean I became a Principal Database Administrator, leading a team of other data professionals with their respect, and built a high performing data architecture.  I may not have anywhere to advance to or won any awards or know a lot of people on twitter but, this shows great success.  Why does it without all the other factors?  It shows a high level of success because of the way I stated it and how they feel about themselves.  “I became…leading a team of professionals that respect me…built a high performing…“  You are obviously gratified with what you’ve accomplished, which is success.  After all, I didn’t say, “I have a management job…I have a few people that report to me…I had to rebuild an entire data environment”.  There isn’t much excitement in those second statements even knowing, they are the same as the first.  The difference is, the person.  The fulfillment shows through even in a few lines and statements of accomplishments.

Success is fulfillment!

We may never achieve the skills at the highest level possible in something.  We may never get that position at the top of the food chain.  We may never make as much money as Bill Gates.  We may not even make enough to buy that dream house.  We may, however, feel damn good about what we have, how we got there and how we’ve been rewarded through that path to success.

As we’ve talked about, success is in the eyes of person gauging themselves and how they do so.  Fulfillment and self-gratifying achievements all relate to success.  The most successful people I’ve observed, the people that know they are successful, always strive to achieve more.  That may be education, more projects, more advanced positions, or more advanced problems to solve.  The bottom line, they strive to push forward.  It’s often noted that these types of successful people always retain the mindset that they are not complete successful.  They a hard on themselves on what success truly is.  This promotes great success and continuing successful achievements.

What about that failure topic? As you may recall, earlier I said we can take success being defined as lack of failure and reverse it.  Failure leads to success.  We’ve all heard that saying many times over.  I agree with it completely.  We must fail in order to be successful.  Why?  We need to know what failure is so we can determine what success is.  If we never fail, have we been successful?  Maybe but mostly, we can only guess to how it feels to truly compare failure to success.  This doesn’t mean if you never failed you have no success.  You could really be that good. Doubtful but maybe.  I’d hate to have a career without failure.  I know exactly the low points to avoid and how to drive to maintain success based on those low points.  All the things learned from failure, lead to success.

Do you think you are successful based on who you are, how you control your career, strive to be successful, is success getting there fast or just getting there at some point, and how to hold yourself on the level of needing to be successful?  Some interesting questions we should all ask ourselves often.  Well, until we’re all retired and the greatest success is making the decision of which lake we’ll all be going to fish in today.