Often when people talk about “successful” companies, they’ll point to ones like Apple, Snapchat, or Uber.
Now, Apple is a massive and profitable company which continues to try to innovate and invent, and I think most people will agree they are a smashing success. Love or hate the iPhone, there is no denying what Apple has accomplished.
But while Snapchat and Uber have a very high valuation, they are not PROFITABLE.
So the question becomes “How do you define success?”
If you’re as baffled as I am as to how Uber founder Travis Kalanick is worth $6.3 billion and the 226th wealthiest person in the world while leading a company that lost over $708 million in the first quarter of 2017, well, Salon’s Angelo Young wrote about it.
“In the world of Silicon Valley, profitability takes a back seat as deep-pocketed investors throw money at long-term aspirations. For years private investors have assigned sky-high valuations to tech industry startups in a bid to find the next Amazon or Google nestled in some Northern California office building or garage. Billionaire investors, private equity firms and sovereign wealth fund managers are willing to take considerable risks that mushroom the wealth of founders and CEOs to astronomical levels.”
That $6.3 billion sounds crazy impressive until you realize that Kalanick is of the main primary shareholders of Uber, so his net worth is raised by the potentially irrational valuation from investors, making him a “paper” billionaire. That means that his worth is based on the value of assets he owns, not actual money he has available to spend. So, while Kalanick is likely looked at as “successful,” he has a company that is hemorrhaging money.
All of this brings me to this question: How do you define success?
Success can be defined in many ways:
- How much money you make
- Having the work/life balance you want
- Your level of happiness with the work you do
- Owning your own business
- Your amount of passion for the work/industry
- Level of education/training you’ve gotten
Everyone defines what success looks like to them specifically.
Dictionary.com defines success as “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose” first, with the second definition referring to money: “ the attainment of popularity or profit.”
For me, success has been being able to do the work I want and make a sustainable living wage while doing it.
I am a writer. I love what I do and am happy with my career choice. But it took 10 years of working in a completely different career before I finally made the jump to writing.
I didn’t always dream of being an entrepreneur, but being one allowed me to be a writer, therefore it was part of my path to success. Since I make a decent salary doing what I love, I consider myself successful within my career. I am happy! And for me, happiness and passion are great barometers of success.
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What about others? Business Insider’s Drake Baer wrote about some:
Arianna Huffington said, “To live the lives we truly want and deserve, and not just the lives we settle for, we need a Third Metric,” she says, “a third measure of success that goes beyond the two metrics of money and power, and consists of four pillars: well-being, wisdom, wonder, and giving.”
The late, great poet laureate, Maya Angelou’s take on success is among the best: “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”
“My definition of success?” Sir Richard Branson asked himself on Virgin’s blog, “The more you’re actively and practically engaged, the more successful you will feel.”
British politician Winston Churchill said, “Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.”
Deepak Chopra wrote, “Success in life could be defined as the continued expansion of happiness and the progressive realization of worthy goals,” in his book, ‘The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success.’
Interestingly, not one of these people said that money was their barometer for success. After all, they were all recognized and I’m sure well-compensated for their work, yet they kept on doing it long after they made enough money for their lifetime.
When you think about your work, your life, what are you most proud of? What are you most excited about?
When you think back on your career, what will you say was the most rewarding part?
Was it the money, the recognition, the flexible schedule that allowed you to spend time with loved ones?
When you think of your own success, how do you know when you reach that point?
I think that when we look at this, a motivator to WHY we work so hard and the benefits we get from it, that we will be better able to understand ourselves, our work, and make changes to what we do in order to reach our definition of success.