What, really, is Success?

Successful family -- Man, woman and child

Are you feeling left out? Does it look like you’ve failed? Does it seem like you made a mistake that can never be corrected? Are you questioning if you have actually succeeded? If you’ve asked yourself any of those questions, this article is for you.

What is Success?

Look around. Look into your ‘culture.’ Look into the things that have been passed down. What are the ideas that portray success in your environment? What does success look like where you come from?

I’ve looked at it myself and I’m asking you to do the same. I’m not leaving you to do this alone, though. Before the end of the article, you will have a better understanding of success and how to view it. You’ll have an idea what success is and what it is not. You will be better at discerning what is worth fighting for in life and things that should not even be any of your business. Truth is: some of the things we get hung up on are actually useless to us and could even end up ruining our lives.

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I grew up to find the word, success, wrongly defined in a number of ways. Consequently, this has many of us to go after the wrong way. Let me list out a few things people in my society think is success:

  • Appearing on the news
  • Getting married and having kids
  • Getting married at 20 or 21? (Oh! Help me, Lord!)
  • Becoming a CEO at 8
  • Buying the latest shoe or smartphone
  • Watching the latest movie, and many more.

Which other definition of success have you found in your area? Post a comment now and come back to read the article. I want to see it, seriously.

There is nothing wrong with most of the definitions above. The problem is making them a benchmark every other person must meet to be seen as successful.

Recently I stumbled on a viral Facebook post written by a man who had so many regrets for not marrying early. He had a friend who started a relationship with a lovely girl. Though the friend didn’t have much. This man’s friend struggled with his love until things got better. They later got married successfully. And that was it.

According to the writer, the lesson all youths MUST learn is that they shouldn’t wait for too many things to come together before courting a girl they love. We are supposed to start the relationship anyway and see how it goes otherwise we may lose the “love of our lives.”

Absolute crap!

The advice looks good on the surface. But this story had barely begun. That is barely the beginning of the story and someone is asking all struggling youths to follow suit. There are other details like the age of the man and the woman and the kind of jobs they had at the time. We have a lot to learn from this story. But it should never be used as the model for all struggling youths the way this writer presented it. Be careful what you read on social media.

In the first place, young people have a hard time understanding what love really is. In fact, so many couples regret marrying someone they loved. It takes a mature mind to understand how to look at love. It takes maturity to understand that falling in love with someone does not necessarily mean you are meant for each other.

Why should someone come out to encourage everyone else to follow the example of his friend so they don’t miss out on the one they love?

It was a good story but badly presented. Several details were left out and trying to make it a model for all (struggling) youths is wrong.

While it is true that something good could come out of things that don’t look so good, “seeing if it will work” is not good advice when it comes to marriage. It’s better if you understand where your life is; where you want to take it; how that union will affect both of you; and the commitment and sacrifice needed.

You hear things like marry before 30 so that you won’t be too old for your children. All these things don’t take us anywhere. These things should never be used to define success. Take a closer look and you will find that there is a problem with all these success benchmarks. The real issue stems from the fact that every person’s situation is unique. Every individual’s purpose and destiny is unique. Copying and pasting solutions is never a good idea in life.

I’ve seen people who married early but are now on the brink of suicide. Some are in a psychiatric hospital. I’m in no way saying that marrying early is a bad thing. I’m saying that early marriage should never be a requirement for success.

Which is more important, tell me: to risk having a broken home with kids left to fend for themselves morally and emotionally OR marrying late but being able to raise good kids and have a good family? Which is better?

When you look at the number of hoodlums and prostitutes on the street, in offices, and in the church coming out of a broken home or a “surviving marriage;” when you look at the number of women and children enduring physical and emotional abuse in marriages, you will find that marrying early (or late) should never be a yardstick for success.

Marriage can be successful. Let’s go for that. Marriage can be good and lovely. In the end, as long as your marriage is not a problem or a potential problem for you and society, then it is successful. It’s not about looking good in public. Marriage goes all the way from living well together to raising good children. If you are married already you’ve got work to do. If you are yet to be married this is a good time to make sure you do it well. You are not just going in there to be with your partner, you are going in there to be a parent.

As long as your marriage is not a problem or potential problem to you and society, I think it is successful. It is not successful because you smile in public. (I’m not in any way saying things should be perfect, but some marriages are not just it.) Forgive me but I’m more the bottom-line kind of guy.

The idea of being successful has been greatly perverted. You see people marrying successfully for 30 years and you look at their kids and find it hard to believe they have ever lived under a parent. I’m not exaggerating, I’ve seen it before. Then you ask yourself: what in the world was the real success in that? Nothing. Just the idea of being married. Just the idea of being respected or envied as married couples. Then we forget the fact that those badly trained children will be allowed into society to be leaders, husbands, teachers, and they can’t be all of that without mixing it with whatever harmful lifestyle they grew up with. Think about it.

They will be a problem to society and generations unborn. It makes me want to ask: was the marriage really successful? No, sir. If it were, they wouldn’t send out such problems into society.

What is success, then? That’s exactly what we will be looking at. The next few topics will give a better a understanding of what success is and how we should view it.

NB: This article is not about giving up on trying to be successful. It’s also not about fitting into some scale made by someone’s distorted view of life. It’s about going for the right things at the right time for the good of YOUR future. Mind you: getting things right does not imply being perfect. It’s about doing it the best way possible.

Avoid the wrong reaction

Every time you surf the internet or go through your social media timeline you are bound to find a lot of successful people.

Everywhere you turn – when you are out on the pitch to play; at work; at home; during a rehearsal; when hanging out with friends – you are bound to find a successful person around – or someone everyone sees as a success.

Sometimes other people’s achievements could intimidate you. It gets worse when someone starts comparing you to another person you are supposed to be like.

And if you are anywhere ‘below’ them, you are bound to feel uneasy. Something inside you will want to catch up with them as soon as possible. Wherever we go, there is bound to be someone who looks like a challenge to us. It gets harder if one of your prominent strengths is Competition.

Natural competitors are people who want to outdo whatever and whoever seems to be in the same space with them. It’s a good thing. But when out of control or directed at the wrong people or group of people, competition can ruin you. As a natural competitor, you’ll have to be on guard against the negative effects.

Do you feel less talented or less successful? I used to think the same way. “Oh, she’s started this and I haven’t.” “Oh, he’s joined this and I’m yet to.” “Oh, she’s good at this and I’m not.” As a result, most times we see someone else as successful and begin to feel pity for ourselves.

So many of us have come under pressure from well-meaning individuals – some of them close relatives – to be successful. Not just to be successful but to fit their description of success. Some people finally get there but live with regrets for the rest of their lives. You don’t have to end up like this. If you are facing this kind of pressure, read the article on Key Decisions You Must Get Right In Life.

I appreciate our parents and past teachers for their work. Everything we know today, we’ve built them on their ideas. But the truth is: most of the ideas they have about success is not just the right one.

Success is less about what people think when you step out on the street or appear on TV. Success is more about the truth you know about yourself. This is where it all begins.

Discover who you are

The first and most important thing you should succeed at is self-discovery.

Self-discovery is very important. Choosing the right career, marriage, or relationship, is more difficult when you do not know who you are, what you are good at, and what works for you.

Knowing who you are is what every other thing about your success in life will rest on. While knowing yourself is a life-long process, the little you know about yourself is just what you need to get started on the right track. If you know who you are, you’ll know who you can spend the rest of your life with. When you know your strengths and weaknesses, you can choose a career path you won’t drop out of.

The good thing about our world today is the availability of information and the ease with which we can get things done. But the other side of those tools is that they can become very noisy. We could get so preoccupied with tech gadgets and work that we have little or no time for ourselves.

If you must know yourself, you must learn to 1) spend time with yourself, 2) be yourself and 3) follow Jesus Christ.

(Written by Ekemini Robert. First published on Clurse.com Continue reading below)

Spend time with yourself

We have been raised to hate lonely moments, personal moments, and quiet times. Not by our parents, though, but by the environment. We are social beings and we cannot do without others. That’s true. But sometimes we take it too far. Many wake up with an electronic device and sleep with it on their chest. Everyday, work causes us to wake up before 5:00 AM and sleep at 12:00 PM.

We’ve gotten used to the busy and ‘noisy’ lifestyle of modern society. And that’s just the problem with most people. We play and work for too long. Play will help you cool off; work will put food on your table. But sometimes we take these things too far. We make bad excuses out of good reasons and advice. “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” becomes a good reason for you to get addicted to playing. And “No food for a lazy man” becomes the excuse when you neglect family and lose every sense of morality for work and money.

When do you make out time to learn? Spending time with oneself doesn’t mean being idle. It’s more about having moments where you can listen to yourself struggle and improve. These are moments where you can learn new things and develop yourself. This is where you find your weaknesses and strengths. This is where real success begins. This is where you discover more about yourself.

What you know about yourself is what helps you to understand what your life needs and what it doesn’t need. You’ll know the kind of company you need and the ones you don’t need. You’ll discover your abilities and learning potential. This is where real success begins.

You want to be successful? Look around. There is no successful individual who does not know their areas of strength.

Some of them look like they are good at everything. The truth is that successful people know their strengths and also know what to do to make up for what they don’t have. They know the tools and the kind of people they need to work with to help them manage their weaknesses. If you want to be successful, you need to discover yourself in the learning process. Spend more time on your strengths and less time on your weaknesses. But find a way to make sure your weaknesses don’t ruin you.

Be Yourself

The wrong reaction to our aspirations sometimes results in a fake life. For most people, living a fake life is the short cut to being the kind of person we aspire to be. That’s where we do all we can to look successful without actually being successful.

The only way out of this is to learn to tell yourself the truth about (yourself and) the things going on in your life at every point in time. If you can’t do that, then I’m sorry. It’s going to be hard for you to find effective solutions to your problems. You won’t even attract the right friends.

Now realise that 1) there are those who deliberately fake everything and 2) there are others who are just subconsciously mimicking what they expose themselves to every day. Either way, without proper work, we will only end up looking successful without actually being successful.

Many belong to group 1 and a few belong to the second group. But sometimes we may find ourselves behaving both ways.

There is a difference between self-actualization and self-image actualization.

For the first group, we try so hard to act or look like the kind of person we want to be.

We try to live beyond our means; we wear clothes; we change the way we talk, and refuse to talk to people who we think are below our “class.”

You may ask, isn’t that what successful speakers tell us to do? No. It isn’t. There is a difference between conscious practice as you work towards what you want to see AND being fake or unnecessarily proud.

No point being fake. You look good but you still remain the same old empty person. (Didn’t mean to sound like that, bro.) You can become like the person you have in your head. But it will only take consistent work to get there. Being fake will never do it.

The second group is made up of people who unknowingly mimic the person they aspire to be like, then happen to like their artificial self more than their real personalities.

Sometimes – subconsciously – we may try so hard to become the person we look up to. I’ve realised you can never become the person you look up to. You can be like them. What you learn from them will help you become a better person. What you get from your mentors will only make you better; it will never turn you into a photocopy of them.

So if you are still operating in that space, come out of it. There will never be two individuals with the same gifts and talents. You have your uniqueness. Use other people’s gifts, wisdom, and skills to polish your own gifts and talents. Quit trying to become the next, T. D. Jakes, or F. Handel, or C. Ronaldo.

Imitation is a limitation in this regard. I don’t think God makes photocopies. Stop trying to be one. Learn from them so you can be better. Use their achievements to push yourself harder. Become the best (YOU) this world will ever know or see in the space you find yourself. Photocopies end up nowhere.

There is nobody on the planet that can better your uniqueness.

It’s time to be yourself. It’s time to tell yourself the truth about who you are; about what you have and what you don’t have. This is where you realise where you are and where you need to be. When you realise where you are and where you are going, you will then find it easier to figure out what you need to become who you want to be. You will rightly figure out the things you have to do to become truly successful.

Until you are humble enough to see who you are, you will never realise how far you are from where you need to be; you will never know what you have to do or how far you need to go to really be successful.

If you want to achieve real success, know yourself, be yourself, work towards the success you want to see.

Don’t just read and nod.

Take some time for yourself.

Get a piece of paper.

Figure out the things you need; the things you are doing because you need to them and the ones you are doing just to fit in. Get rid of unnecessary activities and relationships. Learn about yourself. Be yourself. Then proudly move on to becoming the best you can be.

Sometimes it can be lonely but that is where you will find piece. It is the place where you stand out. It is also the place that will bring up your true friends.

Follow Your Creator

Beloved, God created you and knows all about you. One easy way to find who you are and what you were created to do is to follow God. I’ve discovered that everything we “do for God,” every instruction from God that we follow, ultimately ends up making us better.

Service to God in a good place can shine more light on your purpose. And whenever you are in doubt you can always ask your creator for direction.

But you must also be intentional about it. You won’t step into a church and magically find your gifts written on the first pillar you glance at. You have to be intentional with self-discovery.

Good church leadership could see what you are good at and position you accordingly. But when in the wrong place all you will do is fill up vacant spaces and that can get you even more confused. Nevertheless, I’m in no way asking you to depend completely on any man for answers.

So even when you follow God, you have to ask him. You still need to read books. You still need to learn skills and try them. Remember, learning can be a good place to find what works well for us and what doesn’t.

Follow your creator if you want to learn more about yourself. The more his light shines on you, the easier it will be for you to see who you are and what you were created to do.

Do it the right way

If you want to be successful, you must learn the right way of doing things. Don’t be carried away by the success story of someone who claims they broke all the rules and still managed to succeed. I’m sure you have seen similar things many times. You may have heard of people who’ve made it as dropouts. Others who didn’t follow the rules but managed to succeed. People who earn so much money by doing nothing.

I call this a wrong presentation of the truth. Those dropouts would be nowhere today if they couldn’t offer value to their world. They didn’t succeed ‘as dropouts,’ they succeeded as people who were able to solve problems and made a fortune by doing so.

How about those who claim to succeed by breaking all the rules. The first thing you must know is that most of these people did not break even 50% of the rules. They only changed a few that were not helping. Secondly, most of them don’t even break the rules at all. They may start off breaking rules but then find success when they began to apply the rules.

Beyond these, sometimes weird things happen in life, but please don’t make the exception the rule.

What Blogging taught me about Success

While learning how to blog (on my first blog), I discovered why many bloggers fail. They think they could do it anyhow and succeed since there are no rules they have to stick to. But they failed. There are rules and you can’t succeed if you don’t follow them.

Many people fail because they don’t understand that content is the foundation of any blog. Since anyone can start a blog in five minutes people start blogs having no idea what they are offering. Their content is not good enough. They don’t know the right topic to write on, neither do they know who they are writing to. They go about social media channels and monetization methods without the foundation of blogging.

The foundation of a good blog is good content – call it value. No success if you can’t meet needs with value. It doesn’t matter how many “rules” you break or create so don’t let adverts fool you. Whether you start from the back or side, you have to get to the point where you can offer value in exchange for profit. Otherwise, you will never find success.

The blogging process taught me a lot. I have realised that sometimes we spend so much time and energy to look successful and so little time on making ourselves valuable. Forgetting that you will never be successful if you can’t offer value. We learn everything about looking successful. We learn a bit more about how others manage to maintain success. But we never learn how to actually succeed (from nothing). We forget to learn how to offer value; how to make ourselves and our products valuable. Because of this we struggle and work hard (on the wrong things) and wonder why we work so hard without ever being able to find success. It may be because you are working hard on the wrong things or perhaps working hard on the right things but in the wrong order.

Now sit back and assess your life. Is there any area you are yet to find success in your life? You will need to become valuable – offer true value – if you must make it in that area. It’s time to get it right.

Don’t spend all your time looking successful. We spend too much time on branding when our products are not good enough and we wonder why it’s not working. During courtship, we spend time acting out love without ever getting to know each other. Are you working so hard to have a congregation when you do not have enough word to feed them? Are you buying her flowers and taking her out when you don’t know how to listen to her heart and pay attention to her needs? Are you applying for jobs when you have neither the skills nor the discipline to keep the job?

Many times we blame God when all the while we have gotten it all wrong.

Branding, flowers and gifts, promotion, are all good. But if they are not used on a system with value at the core, they won’t work.

Before you say you branded, you bought gifts, you advertised, examine yourself: how valuable are you? How valuable are the products you are making? Because, I tell you, if you don’t have unique value at the core of what you are doing, all other efforts to promote and monetize will never work. Think about this.

Learn to do things the right way. Start by looking inwards. Bring out your strengths. Be the real you. Get educated for skills you don’t have. While you may not need all these to get started, you will need them to actually be successful. You will need them to stay successful.

Start small

These days starting small is one of the hardest things to do. Nobody wants to look small. We never want to look like we are struggling. How can we ever say we failed and want to try again? I’m not asking you to wash your dirty linen in public, though. In fact, there are some things about you only confidants should know. (We talked about this in the article on Making Important Decisions in Life.) And when you are stepping out, put on a fantastic look.

But do not despise the struggle. Realise you can’t cheat growth in life.

Remember we all started English Language with alphabets. That was the starting point. And from there, we learnt the rest of the things needed in that language. Do not despise small beginnings.

Take steps every day. Implement a portion of the plan every day. Work on your dreams every day. Realise there are things you can hasten and there are others you must allow to set on their own. Learn to be patient as you work towards success.

I’m sure you’ve heard this saying: “Dream big but start small.” It builds character. Learn to be patient while you grow.

Even then, try not to get used to being small. Start small but don’t get used to being small. Keep the big picture before you always. This will help you to keep pushing. This will save you from getting used to being small.

I tell you: Pressure can cause us to give up in life without knowing. So while you start small, keep your eyes on the big picture. Refuse to remain small. Don’t allow failures and setbacks to hold you back. Keep the big picture before you and aim for the best. Don’t settle for less.

“In life there are many tempting parking spaces on the road to success.” – Anonymous

Remember, greatness is not for normal people. Don’t be carried away by what you see. Don’t settle. Failures can tempt us to settle. Hardship can tempt us to settle for less. Don’t give up. Don’t get carried away by the condition of people in your family or organisation. Keep your eyes on the big picture. Learn to keep your head above water.

Start small but don’t remain small.

Success is Succeeding in Succession

After all said and done you will find that success in life is about succeeding in succession. (I mean it in every sense of the phrase “succeeding in succession.”)

It is about gradual success.

Whether it has to do with career, academics, marriage, ministry, training program, or relationships, it will be about succeeding in succession.

Advertisements have gone from being a marketing tool to being a way of life. Don’t fall for it.

People highlight a time in someone’s life and tag it as a “success.” They got married! They won a race! They bought a car! They did this and that. Is it not success? Don’t get me wrong. Yes it is but don’t look at it the wrong way.

True success is not in the highlights. It’s not in the headlines. It’s not in a social media post. True success shows in the impact your achievement has on you and the world around you.

What’s so great about buying a car only to live in a constant nightmare of having to maintain it? People see you have a car, but high blood pressure is lurking around.

We get married only to end up losing our dreams and living in hurt for the rest of our lives. Most of the self-centered greedy hoodlums and prostitutes we have today came out of so-called “successful” marriages. You tell me, what really is success?

We buy smartphones only to stay hungry to keep up with data charges. What’s the success when we buy things that can’t pay for themselves and you would have to live beyond your means to keep up with the demands? Sometimes it’s our families who suffer for it.

We spend all our lives working only to realise later in life that we are completely useless with relationships. Sometimes we are so caring but are broke and have no plans for the future. What really is success?

Success is succeeding in succession. Life will never be perfect. But it can be better if we do it right.

Success starts with a true personal assessment. It starts with being yourself. When you know who you are and where you are, you can effectively define what you need. You can effectively figure out where you need to be, a good plan to get there, and the things you need to achieve your goals.

Start somewhere! Start small but don’t remain small. Realise you will have to grow. You can’t cheat growth in life. Be patient. There are things you can’t fast forward. They would need to set, heal, develop on their own over a period.

Don’t despise humble beginnings.

The growth process, the learning process, the struggle, they distinctly or simultaneously prepare and equip you for the money, the car, the marriage, the job, the kids, the ministry, the appointment, the miracle, and ultimately your destiny. If you try to cheat these things, you will crumble under the pressure that comes with the achievements.

This doesn’t mean you should leave things to chance. Keep pushing. Think Big. Aim high. Throw impossibility out the window. But don’t cheat growth. Don’t despise struggle. Don’t skip learning.

Allow them where they are needed. Then you will find success. Your dreams will come true.

Your achievements will become a blessing to you and the world around you. When facing difficult times, you will draw from your inner strength because you have it in you somewhere.

Learn to celebrate with others. Don’t live in anxiety. Celebrate your achievements – even small ones. After all, you deserve to be successful. You are a success. Believe that even while you strive.

Be successful. Never give up. Keep improving. Figure it out! Get back up when you’ve made a mistake or when things go wrong. Reach for the sky. Break every record there is.

In your uniqueness, be the best thing your world has ever seen in whatever you do (…in succession!).

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