What is YOUR Definition of Success?

I ran into a friend of mine at an event this morning and we had the usual Silicon Valley conversation about how busy we both are, particularly as the end of the year is just around the corner. (Sometimes I think we should ban the word busy from our vocabulary. After all, busy is the new normal.)

I told her that what was really stressing me was an email I had received just that morning from my friend, a recent author and marketing expert. He wanted to know whether my book was in the top 100 in its category on Amazon.

“What?” I’d thought when I read it. “The book hasn’t even shipped yet.” (Official launch date is January 20!)

Turns out it doesn’t matter what the ship date is, his email went on to tell me, it is all about pre-sales and getting people excited and talking about the book even weeks before it is available.

“So,” I explained, “I started my day all stressed out because of course I haven’t gotten everyone to buy the book already and I don’t have thousands of people talking about it online and I am not in the top 100 in my category on Amazon. ARGH.”


Then my friend asked me something that really resonated. “Is being in the top 100 in your category on Amazon your priority? Is that how you define success?”

Well, no. Actually having a best seller was never  my goal in writing the book. My definition of success has nothing to do with rankings. It has to do with adding real value in the world. I wrote the book because I want to share what I know with others so they can be empowered to have the career that they want, to build the credibility and visibility they need to scale their ideas.

The reason I took a year to codify what I know was that I could spread my ideas much further though a book than I could through one-on-one work with individual executives and entrepreneurs. I would love to lead a movement of thought leaders, or at least inspire one.

Sometimes we need those reminders of what really matters. It is so easy to get caught up in other’s definitions of what our life ‘should’ be or other people’s expectations of us. It can be very challenging to hang onto our own dreams and create a life to look the way we want it to.

If you are similarly struggling, perhaps it’s time to ask yourself:

 How do I define success?  

We all measure success differently. For some, it’s quantitative measures, like the number of followers on Twitter, attendees in an audience, or how many times you are followed or quoted or referenced.

For others, it might be more qualitative: Are you receiving invitations to ever higher-impact events, more-prestigious boards, or more-visible speaking venues? You could measure the impact that your efforts are having on others: Are people starting programs, initiatives, or events where they discuss or replicate your ideas? Are people changing their minds, behaviors, and attitudes as a result of what you recommend?

If you feel like you are losing your way, check in with a business partner, a loved one, a coach or a best friend who can help you judge how you’re doing. It is easy to lose track of our own successes.

Most importantly, slow down and breathe. Enjoy the journey and celebrate your successes along the way. All the studies show that it is those celebrations that most define happiness.


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