What is Success?


In one of my most popular articles, 30 Fundamentals of a Wonderful Life, I stressed the importance of forming your own definition of success. If you don’t, there is a good chance you will waste a lot of time and energy chasing someone else’s version of the word. To help you, I have found 10 quotes that each, in my opinion, give a key insight into what success really means.

Doing What You Love

Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful. – Albert Schweitzer

Following Your Own Path

A successful life is one that is lived through understanding and pursuing one’s own path, not chasing after the dreams of others. – Chin-Ning Chu

Living Each Moment

Life is a succession of moments. To live each one is to succeed. – Corita Kent

Overcoming Obstacles

Success is not measured by what a man accomplishes, but by the opposition he has encountered and the courage with which he has maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds. – Charles Lindbergh

Treating People Well

Never lose sight of the fact that the most important yardstick of your success will be how you treat other people — your family, friends, and co-workers, and even strangers you meet along the way. – Barbara Bush

Excelling in Multiple Areas of Your Life

I believe that being successful means having a balance of success stories across the many areas of your life. You can’t truly be considered successful in your business life if your home life is in shambles. – Zig Ziglar

Doing Your Best

The man who has done his level best, and who is conscious that he has done his best, is a success, even though the world may write him down as a failure. – B.C. Forbes

Seeking and Finding Love

The person who tries to live alone will not succeed as a human being. His heart withers if it does not answer another heart. His mind shrinks away if he hears only the echoes of his own thoughts and finds no other inspiration. – Pearl S. Buck

Leaving the World a Better Place

What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal. – Albert Pike

Success is Many Things

To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded. – Bessie Stanley

What Does Success Mean to You?

I would love to know what success means to you. Does one of the above quotes hold a special significance to you? Have I missed any important ingredients in the potion of success?

So….. what is success? :)

Photo by Michael Pollak

40 thoughts on “What is Success?”

  1. Success is…
    1. Knowing who you are
    2. Choosing who you are
    3. Being who you are

    In other words, success is “finding” (admitting to yourself is more accurate) who you really are, your core values and attributes, then consciously choosing which of those things you want to keep, which ones you want to alter or get rid of, and which things you want to add… and then letting that you that you chose shine through all of the time, every day, in everything that you do.

    1. Jason, i like your comment. Each item you listed can be a major challenge to figure out. Some it may come naturally, but for many others years of programming and adhering to what is expected can make it difficult.

  2. Jason: thanks. You would be surprised how long it took to collect these quotes. There are a million and one about how to be successful, but to find quotes about what success is took some time….

  3. I define success in terms of happiness, much as Albert Schweitzer states in his quote. It matters less to me where I live, how much money I have in the bank, or how prestigious my job might be. Success/happiness is more about the people in my life, the relationships I’ve formed, and living my life with intent and purpose. If I can end my day and say that I spent energy (productive energy) on the things that truly matter to me, than I have succeeded.

  4. a deeper resaon, or no reason at all… both define success for me… an inner peace and inspiration… those are always consistent… happiness… good to have but can be a shallow reason…

  5. Success to me is:
    a) doing what makes you happy, all the time
    b) having things to look forward to
    c) learning to love (and to receive love)

  6. Great post. I appreciate your emphasizing that success isn’t always measured in terms of money and fame.

    My favorites of the quotes are the Schweitzer one…I’ve used that one that one in Loving What You Do… and the last one, which I believe is by Ralph Waldo Emerson. I came across it years ago, and it was attributed to him.

    I wrote about success in It’s a Magical World. I suppose for me it’s a combination of doing what you love, making a contribution to the world, and having the feeling that what you’re doing is what you’ve been put on life to do.

  7. Thanks for the great comments everyone. With a few more comments tomorrow, I should easily be able to put together a post of your definitions next week.

    Jean: I came across a few sites that attributed the quote to Ralph Emerson, but I also came across some that attributed it to Bessie Stanley (and made a point of noting that it is often wrongly attributed to Ralph Emerson).

  8. I believe you are successful when you get paid for doing what you love. :)

    Thank you for the article btw. It opened my eyes to other ways of seeing success. Ways I really needed actually.

  9. “No one else is the authority on your potential, you’re the only person who decides how far you go, what you are capable of.” – Ben Saunders

    Great post!

  10. Excellent points… Success is something very personal and something within each of us. Everyone has success already, finding that feeling of success and celebrating it will help to move us toward what we truly desire.

  11. Hannes: my eyes were opened recently when I heard the term “time affluence”. It just clicked for some reason, and since then I have been thinking about what success really means. I’m sure power, prestige, and riches could fit quite nicely into a definition of success, but there are so many other ingredients to a successful life that are often forgotten….

  12. Great quotes. I subscribed to get updates in my inbox and this was a nice start. Success to me is setting goals and achieving them. Goals should be based off what is important to you and what you love. They can be small, short term goals, or lifelong ones. But success isn’t always based on accomplishments or business. It is also important to have inner peace and positive relationships. Learn all you can, love all you can, and be all you can. Then you will succeed.

  13. Success to me is:
    learning foreign languages and one day when i come a certain level to be able to read an article or just chatting with natives

  14. I love the quote on following your own path. Those of us that march to the beat of a different drum get a lot of negativity from others – I just with the people in my life could realize that their dreams are not mine!

  15. Success is a peaceful night’s sleep, every night. Its all the things you did or chose not to do to “get there”. Success is nothing if it does not have my conscience’s seal of approval. Thanks for the great quotes.

  16. About 3 weeks ago, I just wrote down my Mission Statement of my newsletter as follow

    Be the person I want to be
    Do what ever it takes, to
    Have my desired life.

    And Asking What does Success Means to You? I have been pondering this for quite sometimes and I met a speaker on Power of Law of Attraction, to appreciate and be grateful of what you have today and help others along your journey on the quest of success.

    Interestingly, I also wrote on the Success is many things but the source I have, the person who said it is Ralph Waldo Emerson. Anyway,, it doesn’t matter who said it, important thing is how we achieve it.


  17. I like Jennifer James’s quote, “Success is the quality of the journey”.

    It’s all the unfolding moments strung together, many of which are under our control with the choices we make and how we perceive (attitude) the events unfolding.

    Love your website.

  18. I just looked up Bessie Stanley in Wikipedia and apparently her version was:
    “He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much;
    Who has enjoyed the trust of pure women, the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children;
    Who has filled his niche and accomplished his task;
    Who has never lacked appreciation of Earth’s beauty or failed to express it;
    Who has left the world better than he found it,
    Whether an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul;
    Who has always looked for the best in others and given them the best he had;
    Whose life was an inspiration;
    Whose memory a benediction. ”

    So, I agree, it probably wasn’t Emerson, but it appears to be a modified version of Stanley’s. I like the revised version better. Anyway, thanks for the clarification.

  19. everyone can define success in his own way success for me is doing what i want , where i wnat, when i want , with whomever i want, as much as i wnat having the total sense of freedom that to me is success , it”s realy great tips i am looking forward for more tips

  20. Hey appreciate the Inspirational Quotes by you.

    Really a fantabulous way of projecting “SUCCESS”.

    It boosts me when i read such stuff, and as the phrase goes – Even Eagle needs a push.

    So no matter how self motivated you are you still need a push.


  21. “Success is just a growth in every aspect of life.”

    If you grow in all aspects then you can be able to balance your life and be successful….

  22. The first quote is the most enlightening to me. It makes me think and gives me a clearer picture of my life. I have pursued a brilliant academic formation, having studied in two continents, four different countries, four cities. However, as soon as I accomplished it, I wasn’t satisfied at all. To others, that looks like a great formation, but me, I am not very happy about it. The more the time passes by, the more I feel I should do something else. Since my early childhood my true passion was drawing. However, I did not follow it. I did not attend an artistic high school and so it was with my university. The quote is enlightening to me because I understand that I see things in the wrong way. I assume myself as a valid person only in light of what I do. But that is wrong. The person comes before the action. So, I should first of all feel happy with myself and then happy with what I do. It therefore comes naturally that what I do should be matching my inner personality. But that it is not my case. Well, I don’t know, hope to get things fixed very soon. I was thinking that maybe I can keep on buing busy with what I have studied and in the meanwhile to look for a hobby to satisfy my artistic personality. Then, if things go well, I may drop the first thing and the totally absorbed by the second one, only the thought makes me relieved. Thus, I am enviosining sort of a transition period in my life. on the other hand, it may be too costly to committ myself to what I really life, as I think of it I then say: where do I find money for it (a possible artistic formation), where do I start from? and such questions. They might be stupid questions, I should probably only free myself and do what I really like. For example, I could get a part-time job and accompany it with an artistic formation. I don’t know, I am so undecided about everything and full of fears. But one thing I am understanding: I must committ myself to something, otherwise i get crazy. Then, let’s see what will happen. To date, I can only say that my dream is to freely live my life one day, doing only what I like the most. Only in this way, I will be able to be in peace with myself and the people sorrounding me. By the way, I am kind of sure that my situation is related with my parents. But it is my time to act, fuck them. I can’t keep on being focused on what they expect from me and such shit. Throughout my life, especially my father has always been a fucking heavy presence, trying to manipulate me by any fucking means. My mother too. Just to give you an example: I spent 2 months in a foreign country by volounteering in a summer school for children. It was a very pleasant experience. I decided to do it, regardless my parents. They wanted me to take an internship or something like that but I did that. Recently, speaking with my mom, she told me she would have not allowed me to do it, if she knew that it was a programme designed for teenagers. First of all, it was not a programme only for teenagers, secondly, even if it was so, what’s your problem with that? Where the fuck is it written that there are things only for certain people, and even if so, what prevent us from doing whatever we like? Stupid stupid closed mentality. But I guess that is due to my parents’ unsatisfaction with evertything: job, family, people around them, everything. That is not how life should be lived, that is about living a hateful life, full of jealousy towards others, complaints bout everything, critics for everything, total lack of trust to the others, suspicion for the diverse, impossibility to naturally enjoy something, even your child’s happiness.
    I am opening my eyes very recently and that hurts a lot. Moreover, very often I am discouraged, as I don’t see anything good in my future, but these are only stupid thoughts I must fight, I guess. Fear is the first enemy, indeed. Well, I wrote a lot and it was also good, I guess.

  23. I was so excited when I visited your website.
    Shortly after my first wife left me I found a plaque for my new apartment that stated
    ” Success is living your life in your own way”
    Divorcing me was the right thing for her to do. I was a mess at that point of my life and when she left I asked “Why are you doing this, I love you and the kids with all my heart”.
    her reply was ” No you don’t, you don’t love yourself, How can you love us when you don’t know how to love yourself !! ”
    She was absolutely right!!
    That comment started me on the journey of self discovery and it has been a wonderful journey indeed.
    I loved your “about me” page, it spoke to me as it always does when I read about someone on the path.

  24. success is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration
    Thomas Edison
    I strongly believe in this quote. It advocates perseverance as without it nothing we can achieve. Therefore we must already make it clear what we are looking for in our lives and plan our strategies towards that accordingly. In between there is our diligence which pushes us ahead towards our desired goals. Whenever we finally arrive there, we’ll be both successful and happy.

  25. For me, success means spending as much time as possible doing things I enjoy, and as little time as possibe doing things I don’t enjoy.

  26. For me, success is a state of heart. Is the way you treat your dear ones, the happiness you bring to anyone you encounter, the contribution you have to society, the calmness of mind, and the continuous growth through every little thing you do each day.

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