Money. Power. Fame. Lives in service to others. Giving back. Are career success and personal success two totally different paths or are they intertwined?
The January 2015 issue of Essence magazine surveyed readers on their definition of success. The top 7 answers were:
- Living a happy life
- Having financial independence
- Being spiritually fulfilled
- Having no debt
- Being able to afford things important to you
- Having a successful career
- Being in a fulfilling relationship
Defining success is one of those elusive ideals similar to defining happiness, love or pleasure. Each one of us have a different answer and our answers change through the lifecycle. I worked with an executive (early 40s at the time) who faced a life-threatening disease and after surviving made health a priority, almost an obsession. Prior to that, his focus was work—sometimes more than 70 hours a week. Billionaires Bill Gates, Warren Buffett along with 125+ others including former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, movie director George Lucas and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg have entered into the “Giving Pledge.” The pledge is a commitment to contribute most of their millions or in some cases billions to charity.
When you enter the term “the most successful person in America” into one popular search engine, the first result is The Richest People in America at forbes.com. Of course search engines are hard-wired with SEOs (search engine optimization, keywords, labels or tags). However, the third entry is about fame. Is success all about Keeping Up with the Kardashians?
Psychologists have a theory, don’t they always? It is called Social Comparison Theory. Here’s how it works. You look at others lives whether you know them personally or from your favorite guilty-pleasure-TV show, social media or hear about the person from a friend. Then you make a judgment about the quality of your life either based on an upward comparison—people who appear to have it better than you: more attractive, fancy cars, Louboutin shoes, more influence, 20 sports channels—whatever. Downward comparisons are people you observe and they seem to have it worse than you- still driving the Pinto hatchback, you get it. This theory basically says others define our success because we stack our lives up against friends, neighbors, relatives, co-workers or celebrities and make evaluations.
Tony Robbins has the Ultimate Success Formula and a 35 minute YouTube called, “The Keys to Massive Success.” Then, there’s the Ted Talk by Richard St. John, it is only 3 minutes. However, he doesn’t define success; St. John just tells what 8 concepts lead to success. Spoiler Alert: Passion, Hard Work, Focus, Push Yourself, Serve Others, Have Ideas, Persist and Get Good at What You Do. Success Magazine’s tagline is “What Achievers Read.” It appears that while success is personally defined and changes throughout our lives—it is also a multi-billion industry with books, magazines, life coaches and reality TV to help us all figure it out.