What They Don't Tell You About Success

‘Success’ is a very vague term that encompasses a very wide breadth of meanings. Of course, success can also have a variety of appearances depending on both who the wearer is and who the looker is. It is undeniable that success is a word and a goal that is drilled into our minds from a very young age, partly by our educators, parents, and peers. Even as a fourth-year university student, one of my courses this year began with a class that entailed listening to motivational talks given by people who have been or are successful: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, etc. However, there were some common threads that I noticed between their speeches and my primary concerns were that most of their advice was grossly oversimplified and idealistic. I believe that there are other components to ‘success’ that one should keep in mind, other than phrases like “take risks” and “don’t give up.” Here is a short list of things that they don’t tell you about success.

1. Luck is Important

Nobody likes to be told that they have less control over a situation than they thought they did. Similarly, nobody wants to hear that they may have done everything that they could have done with respect to a certain goal, or that they truly gave it their all, and it wasn’t enough. The hard truth is that sometimes, there are factors at play that are completely outside of our control. This does not mean that hard work is a negligible effort, nor should you feel that you are helpless in determining your own fate. After all, hard work can create opportunities and endless ripple effects that we may never truly recognize. It is worth pointing out, however, that it is okay to be gentle with yourself. Even if you didn’t achieve a particular outcome that you wanted, you are still a worthy person. We cannot always know why something did or did not work out, and the best we can do is continue moving forward.

2. Success is Often Redefined

I cannot stress enough that this point is not to encourage anyone to give up on their aspirations. Rather, this point is to encourage you to actively think about what you deem to be a successful life and why you feel this way. Really take the time to critically consider how you have shaped your thoughts and beliefs about success and whether these thoughts and beliefs still hold genuine significance in your life. Many people develop their initial opinions about success as a child and sometimes, we carry those deep-rooted opinions with us into our adulthood. However, as we grow and evolve and change, so should our perceptions about the world and how we live in it. Is it possible that you are struggling because you are trying to secure a job whose central appeal is the money? Would earning a certain salary truly allow you to feel successful? This is, obviously, a very simplistic example, but the thought experiment is applicable to many different circumstances. Remember that letting go of certain mental leanings or molds does not make you a quitter – it makes you resilient.

3. Big Picture Mentality is Key

Once you have thoroughly explored what you believe to be fundamental to you as it pertains to success, the next step is to execute those goals. Although execution is completely variable person-to-person and there is no cookie-cutter formula for it, it will be crucial to remember what it means to have a big picture mentality. Essentially, the core tenet to this philosophy is that there are numerous paths one can take to arrive at a specific destination. When you exhaust one path and it turns out to be a dud, the key is to recalibrate, figure out where you are in relation to your goal, and think up new and creative solutions. It may feel as though you are starting over from scratch each time you have to embark on a new path, but this is not true either. Every life experience under your belt makes you a wiser, fuller person and they help you to make smarter decisions each time you are faced with making one.

As I mentioned in the beginning, success looks different on everyone. Don’t concern yourself with trying to match your life to someone else, because the way that you get to your goals will be completely and utterly unique to you.