Define your Success

The most important ingredient to success is taking action.

The most important ingredient to success is taking action. This year, why not determine your own standards of success and then go out and achieve them? Of course, to do that there are some questions you will need to answer. What do you see as success? Have you ever sat down to really consider what success means to you? If you achieved success, how would you describe it?

These are questions that some of the greatest minds of history have wrestled with. Here are some of their answers:

Anything that won’t sell, I don’t want to invent. Its sale is proof of utility, and utility is success.

— Thomas A. Edison, American Inventor

That was how Edison defined success, as utility. He wanted his inventions to sell; after all, they were how he made his living.

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.

— Winston Churchill, British Statesman

Edison spoke of the result, Churchill, on the other hand, discussed the process. He was fighting a war at the time and knew that there would be failures on the way to his goals, but he also understood that if he, his people, his soldiers and sailors, all kept to the plan, kept fighting, then they could win over Germany.

The thermometer of success is merely the jealousy of the malcontents.

—Salvador Dali, Spanish Artist

Like Edison, Dali sees success in the reaction of others, in this case those he calls “malcontents.” It is in their jealousy that he sees the level of his own success. Dali does not discuss sales or wealth, merely the jealousy, and one has the feeling that if he earned nothing, and those malcontents were still jealous, he would still have rated himself a resounding success.

Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.

— Albert Einstein, German Physicist

Einstein would have us not worry about being a success at all, preferring that we develop value, cultivating character, intellect and a moral compass and then putting those things to good use. Like Churchill, he sees success as more of a by-product of some other process, rather than a goal in and of itself.

The single most important ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.

— Theodore Roosevelt, American President

Like Edison and Dali, Roosevelt’s conception of success is external, based on the reaction that others have for you. However, unlike Edison, who sees these others as customers, or Dali, who sees them as jealous malcontents, Roosevelt takes a different approach and advises friendship, or at least a friendly acquaintanceship. Roosevelt understood full well that cooperation was important to a successful endeavor and that the first step in gaining that cooperation is to learn to get along with people.

Success is blocked by concentrating on it and planning for it ... Success is shy – it won’t come out while you’re watching.

— Tennessee Williams, American Playwright

For Williams, success is something that happens when the conditions are naturally right, rather than being something you can plan for. Soldiering on in the face of failure, as Churchill says, will help, as will getting along with people as per Roosevelt, but here, Williams acknowledges that all your preparation and hard work may still come to nothing. This is a sobering, if honest observation.

Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom.

— George S. Patton, American General

While his military career had its high and low spots, Patton never stopped and he always tried to wind up in a better position than he had before things turned bad. True, after the slapped soldier affair, he lost his command, but after Normandy he was given charge of the US Third Army and led them from the hedgerows of Normandy and into Germany, from success to success.

Success is dependent on effort.

— Sophocles, Greek Philosopher

How high you bounce is really dependent upon how much effort you expend. Put in everything you have, don’t quit, and success is within your grasp. While there is no guarantee, the more effort you put in the more the scales will tip in your favor.

In the end, all of these great people are correct. You do need the effort and you need the goodwill of those around you. You need to stick to it and accept that you will fail before eventually succeeding, but you need to go past those initial failures before you reach that ultimate success. You can do all that, becoming a better person through the effort, especially since you know that there are no guarantees, to create an environment for success.

That is all you can do, and once you have, with a little luck, you will be enjoying the commerce of some and the jealousy of others.

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