What is success?
According to Alain de Botton, we live in a world where snobbery is no longer based on an accident of birth as it was in the past but on the success that we make for ourselves. We live in a meritocracy and it has it’s benefits; we are not stuck in a life predetermined for us. But it also has a downside. If we are not successful, we only have ourselves to blame. This can result in stress, regrets and feelings of failure.
de Botton encourages us to be gentle with ourselves. Take it easy. Define success on our own terms. Please watch his video. It’s really quite fun and thought provoking.
My personal meaning of success.
I love de Botton’s sentiments but the world is what it is at the moment. The zeitgeist does not generally include his gentle meaning of success. Adults and children alike are constantly driving themselves to do better — earn more money or get better marks so that they can earn more money. Yes, money is generally held as the measure of success.
Yet, I have found that with my blog, and traveling, and making little money doing so, I have never appeared more successful to the outside world. People are really interested in what I’m doing. They discount my comments about making less money and focus on my determination to live the life I want and make my career fit around it. I must confess: despite the financial scenario, I do agree, my life is quite successful. There’s room for more success but I’m happy.
Can one travel his or her way to success?
In honor of the New Year, a time when our thoughts turn to plans for the future, I thought I would explore the connection between travel and success. But please note, I didn’t do this overtly. I didn’t ask these people about the connection. I asked three simple questions of some serious travelers…
Here’s what they had to say.
What does success mean to you? When I was a student, success was measured by the grades I got or the medals won at sporting events. When I worked in the corporate world, it was measured by the innovative investment solutions created for our clients and the number and type of deals closed. Personally, success was measured not only by what I did but how I looked, dressed and behaved. I later discovered that quite a bit of it was actually a façade, designed to impress others. The past year has taught me that success comes from within. It’s the fruit of the drive to understand ourselves and others better, improve ourselves, utilise our potential, and to help others so that they too can be successful.
Are you successful by your standards? By my standards, I think I am rather successful. I cherish the successes but there’s always room for improvement. I’m very critical of myself in that sense.
Do people perceive you as successful? I guess that depends on who you ask and what their definitions of success are. My family and closest friends see me as a well-balanced, positive individual (they told me so ). That’s a success, at least in my book.
A friend of mine says I’m the sort of person who, upon stopping somewhere (say, waiting for the light to change so I can cross the road), will leave a little puddle of “success” behind me; that success just drips off me. So in terms of how (some) people perceive me, I am successful. Others, however, don’t see it that way. I’ve made a series of decisions with my life that are less than conventional, and while some may envy the life I have (or the life they think I have), others don’t understand it at all.
So am I successful? As the video suggests, we can define success as we wish, and society in general could stand to be a little more open-minded as to what success means. I could use statistics to prove my success but they’re just numbers. I had a successful year in 2009 because I continued to chase down my dreams, gave a helping hand when I could (whew! did I ever get a chance), and held to my convictions when the going got tough. I look forward to another year of learning, evolving, and succeeding in this plight.
Ted of the Chicago Examiner
What does success mean to you? Success means achieving your goals in whatever aspect of life that is being measured. It is possible to be a success in one area, but not in another. One can be a failure in relationships with the opposite sex yet find success in work or other personal goals. In the end I think the ultimate measuring stick of success is peace of mind. If one achieves all work related goals and has all the money in the world it does not mean much if the person is not content.
Are you successful by your standards? I am successful by my standards because I can sleep at night with the kind of person that I am. I treat everyone with respect, and I get along amicably with most. I may not live in a mansion or drive a luxury car, but I am happy with what I have achieved so far in life. Plus, I have experienced so much of the world and the outdoors that has really enriched my inner soul and those experiences cannot be measured in monetary terms.
Do people perceive you as successful? It depends on who is doing the judging. To make ends meet I work at a restaurant and many would think anyone getting close to 40 waiting tables is a failure. However, many are jealous of the fact that I have such flexibility in my lifestyle. Five years ago I took off for Asia for three months and I am fixing to do something like this again. We all measure success in our own ways and we all measure the success of someone else by our standards which are different from person to person. This means that someone who thinks they are a failure could be viewed by someone else as a success and vice-versa.
What does success mean to you? Success to me is about finding peace, and finding your place in the universe. I know that sounds a bit strange but it is that feeling that you have when you know you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing, or put on this earth to accomplish. Peace is something that brings so many other benefits which in turn allow you to achieve success because compassion, patience and tolerance all come as a result of achieving a level of peace. I believe with all of those things together, everything in your life – your family, career and personal life – will be successful.
Are you successful by your standards? Yes I think most people would think I am overachieving in the mortal measure of success! You are asking a stereotypical entrepreneur however and we are masters of constant self evaluation so I have not reached where I want to be! But truth be told I am very aware that I will never get there. Crazy but true! So my honest answer is that I feel I have been successful in the decisions I have made thus far in my life but I still have a lot I want to get done before accepting that trophy! You can’t put me out to pasture just yet. I still have a lot of gas in the tank!
Do people perceive you as successful? Yes I think people do perceive me as successful and that kind of bothers me! I feel I have always been successful because I was following my passion, but everyone has their own perception of how they view success. Especially people you have to do business with like banks or other institutions. They have graphs and charts to measure and determine your success in their world. I think I fell into that grid about 6 or 7 years ago so then the amp gets turned up to 11!
What does success mean to you? I think that, as more people lose their jobs and therefore lose some of the identifying prestige that comes with their jobs, profession and salary, it is helpful to change your meaning of success. I’ve personally reevaluated that and come to the conclusion that success means doing what you want when you want. I count myself successful in that I’m doing what I want right now. I may be striving for new goals, but I’m happy with where I am, with the knowledge that there is more I want to do and achieve.
Are you successful by your standards? People perceive me as successful in the sense that I got up and traveled around the world and it is something they want to do, but didn’t for whatever reason. Constantly comparing ourselves to others does nothing but hurt ourselves. Everyone’s circumstances are different and turning off the want to externally validate what we do would be helpful to the self-esteem of most of the planet’s population.
Do people perceive you as successful? A teacher making $30K and an executive making $1M have different ideas of success. $30K and doing what you love, influencing young minds, may feel more successful that closing billion dollar deals but not being emotionally invested in it. Vice versa also works. The exec who honestly enjoys her work is successful and the teacher who is just ‘going through the motions’ is not. What brings you deep from the soul joy could be considered personal success. Everyone has different ideas of it.
Quite awhile ago I read this quote by humorist, Irma Bombeck and it has resonated with me ever since. ‘Do you know the difference between success and fame?
Success is Mother Teresa and Fame is Madonna’. To me that quotation meant, success equals inner fulfillment rather than the need for others to say you are wonderful.
Do I consider my travel writing career a success? Yes, I very much do but I never really set out to be a writer. As a woman I had never traveled solo until age 42 when I was divorced. It was 1982 when women weren’t traveling solo. I’ll never forget the anxiety and sadness of that initial trip. I’ll also never forget the feeling of exuberance and achievement when I completed those five weeks on the road. That move from anxiety to exuberance 27 years ago has been my motivation ever since. I wrote of my experiences as a single woman traveler simply as a means of extending a hand to other women like me. I wanted them to see that they could do it, too. To this day, my Journeywoman mandate remains, ‘to inspire women to travel safely and well.’ My greatest measure of success is when another woman writes to me and says, ‘Thank you, I never would have stepped out the door without your help’. That makes me a happy , successful woman. indeed.