This word “success” and the difference between “successful” and achieving your highest potential

I changed the title of my blog inspired by the original article on LinkedIn, which is titled “The Difference Between Successful and Very Successful People.” Great article but I have a hangup about this word “success.” By using that very word of “success,” the myths this article break is already inherent.

One of the myths this article breaks is that pseudo-bragging of “I’m so busy” which is not that impressive. If you keep rebuffing friends and family with that excuse, it’s dismissive, possibly rude, and definitely not bond-forming.

Truly successful people make time for those things that are important to them. And I would add, important to them at a given time. Although attention should always be paid to these parts of your life, sometimes your marriage or relationship needs more attention than usual, sometimes your children do, sometimes a deadline forces you to work later hours, and sometimes your health must take priority. But it can’t be one thing all the time, all day and night. Learn to say “no,” learn to delegate, learn to let go.


Another myth broken in that article is the “too busy to sleep.” Studies show that the most successful people sleep well. They may take several naps and then sleep 6 hours or take 8 to 8.5 hours of a full night’s sleep but they sleep. Sleep is critical to keep the brain at its highest efficiency. You are doing yourself a disservice if you think that somehow sleeping less is proving anything. It will ruin your health and make you perform less than your best.

Finally, what’s not stated in that article is the definition of success. Study after study shows that those who live in stable countries and aren’t worrying about this month’s rent (I always have to add that caveat because those two groups constitute most of the world), show remarked happiness by doing something meaningful. As a writer, I would’ve long ago given up if success meant my own TV show or an Oscar or a best seller. If writers hinged their perception of talent or merit or hard work on that type of result, most writers would be not successful. But we know that’s not true for writers or any other artist, activist, etc.

It’s more productive, and actually scientifically and socially proven to lead to a healthier and more fulfilled life, if you define success as having purpose or meaning. People leave high powered jobs to be a full time parent. Their success now is defined by being their for their children and (hopefully) their community — that is what they define as being meaningful.

success-happiness-streetsignsThe New York Times today has an article by a philosophy professor, Daniel Haybron, “Happiness and its Discontents,” citing this relationship between happiness, and purpose. There are people, the author states, suffering in countries with governments stomping on human rights but they believe their work is meaningful. There are poor people, millions of them, he adds, living and having families and finding their corner of happiness.

I mention this article because success is only important because it promises happiness. Financial stability gives healthcare and buys homes and enables retirement plans and affords a vacation here and there. Success legitimizes unique talent or power or skill in addition to financial prowess. But more than that, it promises that we will be happy. Notice though that in Mr. Haybron’s article nor in any study on happiness, success is never mentioned. Rarely is financial prowess even. Worth keeping in mind as you navigate your definition of success.


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