Defining Success

How adversity impacts our life’s journey

Jared Zamzow
Sep 1, 2014 · 2 min read

Wikipedia defines success as “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose”, and starting this anywhere else wouldn’t feel right. But, like we learned in school, Wikipedia doesn’t tell the full story.

In order to define success, I think you need to dig a bit deeper. You need to take the time to think about success and understand what it really means to you. So, I asked the following questions to help advance my own thinking.

“Do I define success as being subjective, or objective? Is success defined on a gradient or a spectrum? Is it the journey that matters, or am I ‘successful’ when I’ve reached a point on some unseen, cosmic Gantt chart?”

These questions were huge. To me, life is subjective, and so is success. Objectivity is a useful tool, especially for self analysis. But, in regards to defining success, objectivity comes up short. It doesn’t take into account who I am, what I want.

Success must be defined on a gradient, because life isn’t always black and white. I believe the journey is the reward: what we learn along the way, our growth, what we see, do, and experience. And I believe that ‘success’, however defined, is just a byproduct of our pursuit, nothing more.

2500 years ago, Confucius said “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in getting up every time we do.

In our lives, as we pursue success, whether material, personal, or otherwise, one thing is certain: we will face adversity on our path. Challenges and obstacles have been, are, and will continue to be a daily occurrence. With adversity guaranteed, what matters is the way in which we respond to these challenges: our attitude, our outlook and our demeanour.

Over time, the way we respond to challenges, in aggregate, will determine if and when we achieve our goals. It will underscore and underpin who we are and what we stand for. Over time, our responses will begin to shape, mold, and define our character. Our past triumphs serve to grant us courage when facing future obstacles. They remind us that we’ve faced adversity before, that we’ve overcome our challenges, and that we’ve been successful.

John Wayne famously said Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.

So, next time you’re faced with an obstacle that looks insurmountable, take a moment to breath, to remember that nothing in life worth attaining comes easily. Acknowledge the issues and challenges you’ve worked through in the past. Draw strength from these experiences and remind yourself of where you’ve been and what you’ve overcame.

And, in the end, recognize the challenge for what it truly is: an opportunity to prove to yourself that you have what it takes.

To reach your goal.

To define success.