Defining Success

by Joanne Leitschuh

If someone asked you if you were successful, what would you say? I heard an interview this morning in which the actor Dennis Hopper was asked this same question. Finally, at the age of 65, he is one of the highest bankable stars in Hollywood. He said that for him – considering his dark past of alcoholism, drug abuse and violence – that yes, he felt he was at his personal best. If you are an office manager like me, how should we measure our own success? In Management Today’s feature, "From the Top", four top managers were asked what their personal definition of success was. It was refreshing to see that they were balanced in their outlooks. Work was important but so were personal goals.

  1. Sir Neil Cossons – Chairman, English Heritage but previously was Director of the Science Museum, London for 14 years: “ I don’t understand why serving customers to a good standard isn’t the most important thing to all those working for a company. Those for whom it isn’t are deprived, because the satisfaction is immense. If people value and respect you, it is almost a spiritual satisfaction.”
  2. Harris Hones – CEO, One2One: “At work, there are rare examples of individual success. Instead, it is more of a shared mission that can most effectively deliver extraordinary results. Being successful in my personal life is equally important.”
  3. Brian Hadfield – Managing Director, Unisys UK.: “Long-term success in business depends on loyalty. Loyalty from your customers and from your employees. For personal success, it’s important to recognize that work is only a slice, not the whole pie.”
  4. Dido Harding – Commercial Director for Added-Value Foods, Tesco: “The measure of success both in life and at a corporate level is to achieve across the board rather than over-achieving in one area and falling down in all the others.”1

These statements rang true to me. Success normally is defined as the accomplishment of an aim or purpose. However, success is more than meeting projections or hitting monetary targets. I would consider myself successful if I managed my time wisely. These days we all try to pack a lot into a few hours. Multi-tasking is the key to survival. But – how hard do you push yourself?

For me, work can be all consuming if I let it. After 18 years in the wholesale jewellery business, you would think I could figure out when to go home! There is always one more report to produce, one more spreadsheet to fill in, one more phone call to make, one more, one more! Success to me would be working so smart that I could leave the office at 5:00 and actually accomplish something when I get HOME. In other words, balancing my life in a way that didn’t radiate stress, irritability or frustration.

Getting a project done can give me a feeling of success too. An example of this is the recent jewellery catalogue that we produced. We formed a team to dive into the world of in-house photography and page design. We each learned as we went and finally gave the CD’s to the printer. The 34-page catalogue was eventually in the hands of our jewellery buyers. Even though we got the finished product a month later than we liked, it was satisfying to say that it turned out well for a first attempt.

To know that you are successful or not, you have to first outline what your aim or purpose IS. If you don’t have either clearly defined, how do you know if you have achieved it or not? Successful people always impress me as having a vision and a destination — AND they get there. They can catch themselves if they are going off-track. They bring along others with them if they need help. They know what they want, and they find a way to get it.

Can you imagine what success you could experience if you really knew God, the Maker of the Universe, was with you? To have everything you put your hand to flourish? 2 Wouldn’t it be wonderful to really know the mind of God and then be determined to get done what HE wanted you to do? He could guide you when you were getting off-course. He could give you courage and strength to see the project through to completion. 3

Sometimes, your goal will be a personal one between you and God alone. No others may know that you achieved it. Perhaps success to you would mean that after many years, you could look back and say, I did what I was supposed to do. I had struggles in my life, but God showed me what my personal best was. Perhaps it could have been easier along the way if I wasn’t so stubborn in going my own way. However, God allowed me to see what I would face by my own cleverness. I learned that all the success I needed was found in knowing Him.

1. "What is Your Personal Definition of Success?", Management Today, November, 2001. p.p.47-55.

2. 1 Samuel 18:14 "And David had success in all his undertakings; for the LORD was with him."

3. Joshua 1:7 "Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law which Moses my servant commanded you; turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go."

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