“Success” Doesn’t Have to Mean a Rat Race

I had a fantastic conversation with some folks last week around the idea of “success.” One gentleman said something to the effect of, “I’m fine where I’m at. I make enough. I don’t need success, and I frankly don’t want the rat race that goes along with it.” I thought it was an especially pithy comment, but I disagreed. In the end, I brought him around to a different perspective.

I do agree that the rate race sucks. I agree that “growth for the sake of growth” sucks. When Greg Shields and I owned Concentrated Technology together, we were both working really hard, almost all the time. That’s not a complaint: we made good money, we could take the time we wanted to take for vacations and such, and we enjoyed the lifestyle the company let us live. People would occasionally ask us, “when are you guys going to hire someone?” We’d ask why we should, and they’d say, “well, it’s probably the only way you can grow, right?”

Sure. Except we didn’t want to grow. We were fine right where we were, and we didn’t see the point in growing just for the sake of growth.

You see, growth ≠ success.

Promotion ≠ success. Payraise ≠ success. Job title ≠ success.

I know what growth means. I know what promotion means, and payraise and job title. What I can’t define is “success.” At least, I can’t create some universal definition of success that everyone will agree on. Sure, our culture pushes us toward a better job, a bigger paycheck, and so on. People who are “passengers” in their lives will often take those, much as you might tae a free upgrade on a plane. But the upgrade isn’t necessarily getting you anyplace. Drivers look at promotion opportunities and ask themselves, “how is this getting me a step closer to my success?”

Key word: my.

Only you can decide what “success” means for you. In the case of the gent I was speaking with, he’d already achieved much of what he needed to be successful. He was making as much as he needed, he was getting the time he wanted with his friends and family, and he wasn’t “paying” any more in job stress than he was okay with. He’d never actually written those things down, though, so he was still thinking of “success” as some thing he hadn’t reached and didn’t want, when in reality, he’d already come really close to it.

So define your success. It’s the first step in The Grind™ for a reason. And if you don’t know what that means, I’ve got a book you should download.