…And he was rich, yes, richer than a king
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine—we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.
So on we worked and waited for the light,
And went without the meat and cursed the bread,
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet in his head.
Excerpted from the poem “Richard Cory,” by Edwin Arlington Robinson
Wealth, fame and physical beauty — these are our cultural measures of success. Yet, we see people every day who seem to have it all, and end up getting hooked on drugs, stealing, hurting themselves or others, or, like Richard Cory, committing suicide.
It seems that no matter how much success
someone appears to have, it’s an external measure — by someone else’s measuring stick, not one’s own. Despite all the good fortune in the world, there can exist an empty space inside of a person that never gets filled.
It's important to figure out what success means to you
— not how your parents define success, not how your company defines success and not how our culture defines success. Not how your neighbors define it, not how you used to define it, but how you choose to define it for yourself, today.
Try this short exercise. The goal of the exercise is to understand how to simply, richly and accurately describe how you define success. The exercise starts with asking you to think about how you would finish either of the two following statements in three different areas of your life: “I know how successful I am by how…”, or “I know I’m successful when…”
Here are a couple of examples:
I know how successful I am by how … many whims I am chasing.
… much passive income I have.
… easily my ideas convert to revenue streams.
I know I am successful when … I can live anywhere in the world that I choose, at any time.
… I have a feeling I am giving my very best effort to everything I do.
… I can wake up every morning of every day and decide what I will do today.
The exercise is instant prioritizing. You know what’s important to you, whether you know you know it or not. By working on these answers, you can automatically lower the priority of many of the distractions and false idols in your life, in order to reveal the truth about what matters to you most.
Until you’re clear on how you define success, it will continue to be defined for you by others, and it may never meet your internal expectations.