How You Define Success Determines Your Results

“What is success? How do you define it in your current role?”

It was a simple question.

I asked this question of the room in general. I expected multiple replies from the all the executives in the room.

Then, I realised that none would be forthcoming.

A number of cultural factors were at play. The boss was in the room. No one wanted to be seen to be on the wrong track.

I had only 45 minutes to deliver some breakthrough insights to the group. Many people had flown in for the one day conference from distant locations.

My help had been enlisted by the ‘boss’ to get his team to lift the game. I better deliver what I had signed up for.

I had prepared my keynote presentation. The facts, the figures, the frameworks all stacked up. It could all be neatly delivered – well enough to justify my fees for the speech.

But, the audience were simply too ‘disengaged’ due to presence of the ‘boss’. Obviously, I was not fully aware of this dynamic – or, I would have thought twice about the engagement. Life is too short to take assignments with no probability of success.

Yet, there is always a way to succeed in every situation. Especially, if we think broad and deep.

But, the time was running out. I had to think quick. I had to think on my feet. Was it possible to send the ‘boss’ out of the room?

Would it have been possible to negotiate that he stay out of the room in the first place? No.

Then, it would be impossible to send the ‘boss’ out of the room.

Then, what else could be done?  What was the right way to proceed?

I decided to change tack on a short notice.

I asked the audience to divide themselves into groups of 8 individuals and introduced a simple supply chain game. I improvised some gaming aids.

The rules were very simple to understand the execute. Each group was to play the game three times, and note down the results.

I asked for volunteers to come up and share their experiences from the game. There were many enthusiastic volunteers. They even linked the learnings to their work. They saw things that no one else did. Their were ecstatic by the end of the gaming session – and not just from the games.

I asked three group leaders, with one key point each, to stay on the stage. They expanded on their key points. They talked about why these points were important to their business. They talked about what changes could be made to the business from next day itself. They were enthusiastic, knowledgeable and on the right track.  They started making points that linked up with my presentation.

I flicked my presentation to the last slide – where these same three points summarised the entire presentation.

The group leaders had already delivered what I had signed up to do. There was a thundering applause from rest of the audience.

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Vivek Sood

I write about "The Supply Chain CEOs", "The 5-STAR Business Networks", and, how to "Unchain Your Corporation". In my work, I help create extraordinary corporate results using several 'unique' supply chain methodologies. Contact me for interesting, high impact projects, or, to get access to my IP for creating transformations using these methodologies.

  • Adam says:

    To be successful in business you need to be organized. Organization will help you complete tasks and stay on top of things to be done. A good way to do this is to create a to-do list each day. As you complete each item, check it off your list. This will ensure that you’re not forgetting anything and you’re completing all the tasks that are essential to the survival of your business.

  • Jayson says:

    “What does success mean to you?”
    A mentor asked me this a few years ago, and when he did, I didn’t know how to respond. I guess I always thought to be happy and having a lot of money was the key, but as I quickly learned, this mindset was the exact reason why I wasn’t getting anywhere. To this day, I really don’t think there’s an exact answer…or well, a one-size-fits-all answer anyway. One person might define success as not having to work more than 40 hours a week, another person might define success as having a million dollars in the bank account. The definition of success differs from person to person according to their experience and expectations.

  • Gittel says:

    We all want success. We want to be successful and feel successful. We chase money, fame, power, education, relationships, and a thousand other things without ever stopping to ask one essential question: What, actually, is a success?
    Few people pause to consider what it truly means to achieve success in their own lives. I can recall a quote of Jim Rohn, “If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you ‘ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.” Those who have achieved the greatest amounts of actual success are those who are crystal clear on what it means to reach the top, for them. If we want to follow in their steps, we must achieve equal clarity. If we don’t know the most suitable definition for us, we can end up climbing the wrong ladder and pursue someone else’s version of success.

  • Burns Whyte says:

    Good article Vivek. You have raised such a sensitive yet complicated question “what is a success”. Before we can pursue success, we need to understand what success isn’t. If you spend just a few minutes on social media, you’ll realize how many people hold a very narrow definition of success. They think it’s about building wealth, having the perfect relationship, launching a billion-dollar business or amassing a large social media following. And a lot of times, they attach famous people to their image of success. None of these things or people is wrong, but being like them doesn’t necessarily make you successful. Many people have fought and struggled to the top only to feel miserable and burned out once they get there. They’re unhappy because they pursued the wrong definition of success—one that didn’t match their values.

  • Moiser says:

    Interesting article Vivek. I’m often amazed at how many people define success as making or having a lot of money. It’s very strange, because many of the people who think this way are harried, stressed and, frankly, pretty miserable. The way I see it, everybody’s definition of success can be mapped on a simple grid, with one axis being the amount of money that you have and the other being the amount of happiness in your life. There are two reasons why this success grid is better. First, there’s no point to being rich if you’re not enjoying yourself. Second, you’re more likely to get rich if you’re happy doing whatever you’re doing. Being unhappy, of course, can definitely spur people to action. However, the action should be pointed at trying to become happier–not trying to become richer, in the rather naive belief that being rich, in and of itself, will make you happy.

  • Jeanne Wit says:

    Whether or not you are successful depends on how you define success, and on the tradeoffs, you are willing to not just accept but embrace as you pursue that definition of success. Definition of success is subjective, there look like to be some common themes among the ultra-successful about what success actually means. For me, success means the achievement of an action within a specified period of time or within a specified parameter. Also can mean completing an objective or reaching a goal. Success can be stretched to encompass a whole project or be limited to a single component of a project or business task. It can be achieved within the workplace, or in an individual’s personal life. If the key to success up till now is that you should be willing to fail and be actively engaged in your work, the next step toward success should certainly be to keep at it. Success can come slowly and as the result of many, many trials and years of effort. It’s those who quit, like those who never try, that won’t make it through to success.

  • Barton Kyle says:

    You have discussed success in generic terms but I am more interested in defining success in business terms. For some business leaders, success is defined by monetary rewards, while others say success is having a positive impact on others. I own and run a Web design company. My goal has never been to have the most clients, or even to make the most money. I like being focused on just a couple of clients at a time, and a few interesting projects a year. My measure of success is doing good work for interesting people and providing them with value. Also by accomplishing goals, not being motivated by a dollar, but by creating, with creativity, passion, hard work, it often goes hand in hand with financial rewards as well.

  • Sander says:

    I often wonder what the secret to success is. Especially when it comes to real life. Because, at the end of the day, we’re all in this struggle. A rat race, if you will. Constantly fighting an uphill battle. Often, we feel frustrated. Sometimes, defeated. We must set our goals, objectives, and trajectories based on what we desire, not what someone else wants for us. Some people find that helping people brings them the most joy, and therefore success looks like a life given to others. Some realize that building a business or product brings them happiness. Some prefer isolation and others prefer constant activity. The simple yet profound truth is that what makes me happy doesn’t make someone else happy, and vice versa. My vision of success probably looks nothing like yours, and that’s how it should be.

  • Timothy says:

    Wonderful article Sood. Throughout childhood and early adulthood, we learn various ideas of success from our parents, teachers, and friends. Everyone has their own agenda and idea of who and what we should be. Although it’s OK to value the opinions and hopes of others, we shouldn’t necessarily adopt them as our own. No one can impose their version of success on us. No one can tell us what it means to live a good life. It’s easy to assume that success means obtaining a specific object, such as a job or social status, and to believe that if we get that thing, we’ll be successful. But some of the greatest successes resulted from the worst failures.

  • Blaisdell says:

    My area of interest is debating on business success. What should we do to achieve success in business? Small business owners can do a lot to help ensure their success by planning in advance. Creating a business plan is one key step successful business owners take on the road to success. Knowing your customers and how to reach them through advertising and various promotions also pays off. Ultimately, successful businesses are determined by certain metrics or measurements as well as the ethical manner in which they conduct themselves. The financial rewards that come from being successful in business are of course important to many entrepreneurs and are key factors in motivating them to work hard and take tremendous risks. But if success can be defined as the feeling of satisfaction and completion you have when your business career is over, success has other dimensions that for many business owners are as significant, or more so, than monetary rewards.

  • Agnes Christine says:

    One of the most important aspects of business success is earning a profit. Small businesses that fail to turn a profit will eventually fall by the wayside. You must find a way to get into profit as quickly as possible as a small business owner. One way is to ensure you are maximizing sales and profits and are charging high enough prices for products or services. Your products must hold up to ordinary use by customers; otherwise, expect a whirlwind of returns. Always deliver what you promise. As a manufacturer, test your products before introducing them to the marketplace and subject them to extended use. Use the tests to establish a realistic time frame for your products to last. Repeat usage is one of the best measuring sticks for high-quality products.

  • Michelle says:

    For entrepreneurs, great satisfaction comes from the process of creation, starting with just an idea and building something that lasts. There is a pride of ownership from seeing your family name on the company. Successfully facing challenges and as a result finding skills and strengths you didn’t think you had — these are definitely aspects of personal success in business. Successful businesses earn a substantial return on investment for the shareholders who risked their capital in the venture. The founders of the company, who are generally also shareholders, are able to create wealth for their families and security for their future, as well as enjoy a more affluent lifestyle. They measure success by being able to provide a better life for their children than they had when they were young.

  • Trowell says:

    Brilliant article on success Vivek. How does a small company become successful? Despite the bad news we so often hear about the number of small businesses closing or moving, the news really isn’t all that bad: Thousands of small businesses startup every year, and a good percentage of those companies have learned what it really takes to survive the early startup years and become successful enterprises. After working with dozens of small companies, I discovered that the successful ones share some common traits. For example, company culture, attitude, consistency, customer services, business strategy, business plan, discipline, risk, financial roadmap, business process, marketing strategy, information technology, sales, training, a team of advisors, and work-life balance. These things I have found in common in every successful company.

  • Weston DeShazo says:

    When we talk about gaining success in business, the most important aspect to discuss in this regard is how efficient the business procedures are. In my opinion, frequently credited attribute of success is the streamlining of business procedures. We call this “creating predictability.” Unfortunately, this is probably the least understood task a small-business owner can take accomplish. Business processes are how things are done within a business. Every company has some processes and procedures; some are clearly defined, others are implicit. The intention here is to increase productivity and reduce costs while generating the same (or better) outcomes. Successful businesses understand the need to continuously improve their business processes: to become more efficient and productive, and to respond to market changes faster while providing better service to customers.

  • Jorge says:

    When I was about 12 I realized that I could sing, and not just like “I have a nice voice” sing, but a “with some work I could be a major opera singer” kind of sing. This idea of myself as a professional opera singer formed my whole self-identity for most of my teens and a significant part of my 20s. I always felt like my “success” was just around the corner. Any day now I would be a professional performer and my life would officially start. The problem was I spent the better part of 10 years waiting for my life to start because life is only real when you’ve made it right? We need to change the conversation about success; we need to start evaluating why we are striving for a particular and narrow version of success. We need to question who we are trying to be successful. And we need first to gain real clarity on what would truly make us feel successful, and go after that with passion and tenacity.

  • Vanessa says:

    Good article Sood. Close your eyes and think of the most successful people whom you know. How would you describe them? If you are like most, it might sound something like this: They have it all, power, influence, great homes, nice cars. They take awesome vacations and their kids go to the best schools. People listen to them, maybe even slightly fear them. They hang out with other beautiful and influential people. Everyone wants to get close to them. Life is good. Sadly, we are confused. None of these things are indicative of true success. You can have them all, and still not be successful. You can have none of them, and be wildly so. Somehow, we have morphed what it means to succeed in one’s ability to acquire status, influence and wealth. This warped belief system can diminish the impact people have in their homes, businesses, and communities. Is not a dad, who with pride spends his days working hard on an assembly line and then returns home to the love and adoration of his family, successful?

  • Webber says:

    In a business perspective, as the owner of the company, you must have a positive attitude and accept 100 percent of the responsibility for the results of your business. When you accept responsibility, you can act to make the necessary changes to accomplish the desired results. Then, when success is achieved, you’re generous in giving credit to others within the organization. Without exception, the most successful business owners understand that it’s all about people: hiring and retaining the right people, eliminating ineffective people and providing the necessary resources for employees to master their tasks. To attain success, your attitude as an individual and a company owner matters a lot.

  • Krissi Glenda says:

    I’m perfectly okay with the term “success” being used in the way it normally is. In the business/entrepreneurial space, the term success IS always associated with a large amount of money, wealth, and power. We’ve become accustomed to picturing margaritas on the beach when the word success is mentioned. Let me be clear, success is an achievement, accomplishment, and triumph before it is any of those things listed above. Being “successful” doesn’t always mean fancy cars, nice houses, and driveways the size of a baseball field. The actual definition doesn’t even mention the words money, wealth, luxury, power. or anything along those lines. Personally, I think someone with less money could be more successful than someone with a huge fortune. The wealthy individual may have amassed an incredible fortune through hard work, but that doesn’t change the fact that some days, months, weeks, and even years could be unsuccessful for them.

  • Nekrassova says:

    Success is an everyday thing, not a spend 5 years working hard and the rest of your life slacking off. The main reason I hate the way society characterizes the word “success”, is the idea that after you achieve it, it’s like crossing the finish line. Many individuals lose a lot of money because they build a little wealth and think it’s time to retire and spend the rest of their lives drinking beers on the beach. All the time, we see people who make millions of dollars and then end up going bankrupt shortly after. Those people treat success like it’s an end game and stop planning, working, and setting new goals.

  • Jhon Toledo says:

    Defining success in front of the boss, such an awkward situation. Employees feel more reluctant to express their viewpoint in front of rigid bosses. Successful and failed bosses have different attitudes and traits. Failed bosses defined their role as some form of telling people what to do. Employees perceived them as obnoxious know-it-alls who wouldn’t let them do their job. Successful bosses put themselves and their own egos into the background. They focused on coaching employees to perform to their highest potential. Failed bosses couldn’t tolerate change themselves and so found it nearly impossible to get their employees to embrace necessary change. Successful bosses knew that adapting to new conditions requires personal flexibility in order to inspire similar flexibility throughout the rest of the team. Failed bosses tried to manipulate employees using half-truths that left false impressions. When employees realized they’ve been fooled, they felt resentful and disloyal.
    Successful bosses give employees the information they need to know to make the best decisions, even if that information is difficult or sensitive.

  • Alexandera says:

    To succeed in business today, you need to be flexible and have good planning and organizational skills. Many people start a business thinking that they’ll turn on their computers or open their doors and start making money, only to find that making money in a business is much more difficult than they thought. You can avoid this in your business ventures by taking your time and planning out all the necessary steps you need to achieve success. To be successful in business you need to be organized. The organization will help you complete tasks and stay on top of things to be done. A good way to do this is to create a to-do list each day. As you complete each item, check it off your list. This will ensure that you’re not forgetting anything and you’re completing all the tasks that are essential to the survival of your business.

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