Today’s society is obsessed with the endless pursuit of success. It’s a big reason why there’s over 10 million Americans working more than 60 hours of work a week, and why 30% of the general population is affected by “workaholism.”
While on this mission to become “successful,” we make sacrifices. Time. Family. Money. Social life. Our driving mindset: If I become successful, then I will be happy.
But, what does success even mean? Is it a certain status? A lifestyle? An income? A milestone? And, how do we actually know if we achieve success anyway?
I’ve found that young professionals can get so caught up in chasing success, that they lose sight of what success actually looks like for them. Some think that the epitome of success – the type that inspires “Oohs and Aahhs” from others – is just a pie-in-the-sky notion that only the select few obtain. And so we don’t think we’re successful, especially when we compare ourselves to others with more money, more status, more assets, more family, more friends. How can we feel successful if we have less?
Yet, we still strive for it. We still buy into society’s scripted measurements and milestones of what success should look like, for we believe that if we don’t complete the success formula then we’re, well, unsuccessful. And who wants to feel that way?!
As a lifestyle entrepreneur for so many years, I’ve learned that these “success standards” are really just myths – myths that discourage us, even hold us back from discovering our own unique purpose, passion and potential.
Here are 3 myths of success you need to ignore.
Myth 1: Success Means Doing More
We’re constantly living in a ‘To-Do-List’ society. Task lists. Project lists. Honey do lists. We’ve built up a need to check things off the list, for we think that doing more means accomplishing more. And if we are more accomplished, then that must mean we’re more successful, right?
But the truth is, success means doing the right things.
In his book The Effective Executive, Peter Drucker provides great insight about focusing on doing the right thing.
“Efficiency is accomplishing them [objectives] in the least amount of time, with the least effort and cost – doing things right. If you’re not clear on both, you’re wasting your time.”
Instead of focusing on the quantity of tick marks in the proverbial success to-do list, focus on quality. What legacy are you building? Who are you becoming? How are you inspiring others? Those are more meaningful marks of success – your ultimate impact.
Myth 2: Mistakes Mean Failure
Remember the dreaded red marks on tests and essays in school? Mistakes were deemed so bad they were made extra obvious. Our academic upbringing taught us that if you get 50% answers right, that only means you’re 50% wrong. And so you’ve failed.
This mindset influenced our educational curriculum long ago at the same time of the Industrial Revolution. Back then, people were going to jobs where they repeated tasks. Take the assembly line, for example. Mistakes meant that if the workers didn’t put the widgets together right, the car fell apart. It meant consumer complaints. Lost sales. Starting over. And that all meant failure. So, it’s been conditioned into us for over 100 years that every little mistake was bad. It’s a hard thinking pattern to break.
Decades later, many of us still think this way – although we shouldn’t. Mistakes mean growth. They mean opportunities to learn and develop. We need more people that can think creatively, think outside the box. They need to feel free (and encouraged!) to try and fail. Over and over.
Today, it’s about, what I like to call, micro-failing or rapid prototyping. The objective: Fail fast, fail often, fail forward. It’s about getting as many shots in and refining quickly to get to the end game. In the past 20 years, I’ve made a lot of mistakes – especially in my early years as an entrepreneur co-founding companies. I made a lot of money, then lost a lot of money. Opened businesses, closed businesses. Built brands, then rebuilt them.
But I fell fast and picked myself up fast. And because of it there came all types of innovation – from disruptive marketing strategies, to global product launches, to cutting-edge technologies. Innovation means getting to a new idea, method or product… first. So, make a ton of mistakes, learn from then and get to the end game faster than anybody else.
Myth 3: Success Should be the End Game
I’m a big believer in having a clear vision and setting goals. In fact, I’ve talked to all types of people all over the world about these topics. And for most people I meet, a big part of their end game is to be successful. But, they’re not quite sure exactly what that looks like.
I don’t think success should be anybody’s end game. In fact, it only sets you up for failure. The end game should be the impact you want to make in the world – whether personally or professional or financially – and the value you want to provide. Success will then come as an outcome. A by-product. Think of success as the default outcome of fulfilling your passion or potential, and adding value to others.
Consider this: The more value you add, the more impact you make, the more successful you become. Success is a by-product of all that. And, interestingly, it’s not even the by-product you should be focused on.
The by-product you really want is happiness. Yet, we’re taught that success has to come before happiness or that success equals happiness.
And that’s a myth in and of itself that we’ll save for a later time. 🙂