The Definition of Success

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The Definition of Success

How do you define success?

I’ve been doing a bit of interview prepping lately, and this is a question that I keep seeing – and almost immediately stumbling on in my mind.

I used to think that to be successful meant that you had to be unmistakably perfect in your ventures. You had to meticulously outline the best route to the finish line, then follow that route without deviation. Every piece of the plan, no matter how small, had to work flawlessly together toward completing the final objective. And nothing could go wrong. You were either successful or not. There was no in-between, no varying shades of gray. There was only success — or failure.

By this definition, I have been a failure pretty much my entire life, and I have treated myself as such. Even after reaching my goals, I still felt as though I was a massive failure. I graduated with my Bachelor’s and felt ashamed that it wasn’t fast enough, from the school that I had originally intended, or even the degree that I planned to begin with. Sure, I was proud of myself and knew, even then, that I had done something remarkable. But it wasn’t perfect, so in my mind, I was still a failure.

Fast forward to the present, and I now see how damaging that all-or-nothing thinking can be. Sure, it’s important to set goals, create a plan, and work hard, doing everything possible to get there. But if it takes a little longer or plans ultimately change, does that really mean it wasn’t an overall success?

Not at all.

The true definition of success is not in being perfect or getting things right 100% of the time. It’s in adapting, adjusting to the curve balls that are thrown your way, and persevering to the best of your ability.

If I set a goal to be a millionaire by the time I am 35, but on my 35th birthday, I found that I had $750k in my bank account, does that make me a failure? Maybe in the eyes of some. But in my eyes I’m a success in that I have done everything to my best ability to reach my goal. Sure, I didn’t make it there in the amount of time that I’d originally specified, but if I get there in another year or two, it’s still a massive success.

And besides, 3/4 of a million dollars? What an achievement!

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