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How would you answer this question: Are you successful?

What thoughts immediately come to mind?

The answer largely depends on how you define success in the first place.

And that’s the crazy thing – success is such a fluid concept. It’s a moving target that isn’t clearly defined.

It’s like having to run a race with no clear and visible finish line. Or multiple finish lines depending on what lane you’re in. How confusing and frustrating!

Without knowing where the clear finish line is you can’t gage when you need to push harder or how to pace yourself.

Maybe success to you is a certain level of financial achievement, like earning six figures, or building a passive income stream.

Or perhaps it’s notoriety – being seen and viewed as having “made it”.

While those can be good goals, I personally think they are hollow definitions of success.

Today I have a better one for you – one that isn’t weak, nor is it a hard task master, demanding everything from you. It’s thoughtful, complete, and motivating.

But first a little confession.

Success By Most Standards Doesn’t Satisfy

As your virtual business coach, my goal is for you to succeed in all areas of life.

So that requires me to tell you the truth, because – as someone once said 2,000 years ago – “The truth will set you free. 

So here’s the truth: success as the world defines it doesn’t satisfy.

I should know, because by most standards I am successful.

I am healthy, I have a loving wife and children, I make plenty of money, I work short, relatively easy hours from a home office, I have a brand that impacts millions of people each year in over 200 countries, and I get lots of nice emails from happy students and customers every single day.

And the list goes on.

Please don’t take this is bragging – rather it is just the setup for the punch line.

Which is this: I struggle with feeling like a success.

No matter how much money I make, or how much impact I have, I always come back to the office every day feeling like I have to “prove myself” again and become successful.

I deal with insecurity and fear just like you. I’m not content and I want MORE, just like you.

It’s shockingly sad if step back and think about it. But if I’m being honest, this is how I feel a lot of the time.

Famous actor and comedian Jim Carrey said it best:

I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer. – Jim Carrey (Actor/Comedian)

Whew – it’s like he’s staring directly into my soul in this picture!

If this is true, then we need a better definition of success.

The Progressive Realization

When I’m in need of wisdom and a fresh perspective I turn to older, wiser (and usually dead) leaders and mentors who think differently than how I think in this modern world.

One such “voice” of wisdom is none other than motivational speaker and author Earl Nightingale.

In what is likely his most famous piece “The Strangest Secret” he lays out the absolute best definition of success that I’ve ever heard:

Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal. – Earl Nightingale (Author, Speaker)

That hair though…

This is powerful and practical for a few reasons.

1) Success isn’t about finishing or accomplishing something, it’s about progress.

This does a few things for us.

With this definition of success we can actually be successful every single day that we come in and make steady progress towards our goal.

As that “worthy ideal” as he puts it is getting realized more and more each day, week, month, and year, we are successful.

Otherwise you have to wait until you reach your goal to feel like a success and you’re only a success in that one moment.

2) You can determine what a “worthy ideal” is.

And it doesn’t even have to be something that is completely possible.

For example – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was “successful” in his goal of fighting for civil rights of all people regardless of the color of their skin.

Not because he completed the work (there is MUCH work to be done in this country in that regard) but because he saw a progressive realization of that worthy ideal.

He moved forward towards something worth moving towards.

The same can be true for you.

Decide what “worthy ideal” you want to realize and then every day find a way to bring it closer to life.

Let’s Set You Up For Success

With Mr. Nightingale’s definition of success outlined for us, let’s use it as a template so we can set YOU up for success.

Here’s what I want you to do right now – think about your business, your work, the thing you care deeply about.

Now try and write down in one sentence what “worthy ideal”  you want to strive for in that work. It can be is big and crazy and vague or as clear and defined as you want it to be. Just write it down.

Literally – stop reading this for one minute and write it down.

Now look at your typical week.

Does your calendar include pockets of time to be dedicated to the progressive realization of that worthy ideal?

Even if it’s just 30 minutes day?

If so – awesome. If not, create some blocks of time to be working on your business no matter how small.

Once these two things are in place, your goal is very simple – be making steady progress towards your worthy ideal each week.

That’s it. Plain and simple.

Here’s an example of my definition of success for The Recording Revolution:

My “worthy ideal” for the Recording Revolution

And each week I do just that.

So by Mr. Nightingale’s definition I’m a #successstory ya’ll!

The Ultimate Win-Win

Don’t fall for the world’s cheap definitions of success.

And don’t let other people tell you what success “should” look like.

Instead, take the time to identify a “worthy ideal” in your business and set up your days and weeks to have time to see a progressive realization of that ideal – little by little, bit by bit.

If you do that, you will be a success.

Now before you go, I want to give you something that will maybe put bones to this idea.

Seeing a “worthy ideal” come to life is great in theory, but it’s hard when you need to make a living as well.

That’s why I think it’s best to get paid to do the thing you truly love.

And if you’re stuck there, not knowing HOW that’s possible then I want to give you a free training called “Get Paid To Do What You Love”.

In this training I unpack the 3 steps you need to follow in order to pivot into the work and business you were meant for and how you can get paid handsomely to do it.

Download it now as my gift to you. It’s a total win-win.

Here’s to your success!

Download the free 30 Day No Hustle Business Plan

Launch Your Business.  No hustle required!

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6 thoughts on “The Best Definition Of Success I’ve Ever Heard”

  1. It’s interesting that the word “success” only appears in the Old Testament of the Bible, but when it does it is often associated with a journey, which goes along with what you’re saying. There is also a Proverb about it that I like: Ecclesiastes 10:10, “If the ax is dull and its edge unsharpened, more strength is needed, but skill will bring success.” Sort of a “work smarter, not harder” approach, like your Pareto discussion.

  2. Truly believe in this and agree with you completely. More importantly, I love how you added Jesus’ word ‘The truth will set you free’ in light with what we do and how the worldly materialistic interpretation of success doesn’t really satisfy. Kudos for the great work Graham. You have definitely helped me a lot and continue to do so with every post.
    P.S – I am beginning the tracking session for my band’s album today and for the first time, we didn’t hire a producer or an engineer. I am taking this as a challenge to do it all by myself. This is a huge step for me and my 2 year studio – The Red Music Box. All of this would have not been possible without your help and support. Thank you!!

  3. I took up the challenge and played around with my definition of success. Here is what I came up with:

    I am a success in teaching students to acquire English when I give comprehensible input to a viewer in a way that causes them to listen/read/watch with understanding:
    ……for I know that acquisition of a language occurs naturally, little by little, through the messy and invisible and complex process that the brain follows when it concentrates on getting the message, understanding the intended communication

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