What Does Success Look Like?


Is this a failure or a success?

First a shout out of Thanks to Jim Estill and John Wolforth for taking the time to hit the Comment button and share their thoughts on What Might Happen?  I Wonder…  last month.   This pondering continues on with ideas shared in that last post.  You can either blame it on John or thank him if you choose – this pondering a result of responding to his comment.  It got me thinking about what success looks like.

I believe that success can be a tricky thing.  It’s a moving target and always subject to interpretation.  I’ve also observed that some of the individuals who I think are wildly successful don’t always feel so successful themselves. 

I wonder how often we find ourselves measuring up short – but that is truly only in our own minds.  That we focus on the missteps and the could haves, rather than the did haves and wasn’t that great!

Let’s go to my favorite source, yes Wikipedia, for a definition.  “Success might mean, but is not limited to:

Now let’s look at their definition of failure.  “Failure refers to the state or condition of not meeting a desirable or intended objective, and may be viewed as the opposite of success.”

Hum, if we really think about it, we are in control here.  We define the level of social status, the objective/goal, as well as what failure looks like.  Pretty powerful.

It’s also important to remember that we all define success differently.  What does matters isn’t my defintion, but how you personally define success.     

Sometimes I think we fall in the trap of focusing on the big SUCCESS and we need to focus more on the little successes that we have all the time.  Or that we get ourselves hung up on how others define success and trying to meet their measure of success rather than our own.

I bet if we thought about it hard enough we could find a small success each and every day.  I know that this is something that I personally need to do more of – looking for those small, daily successes.  We often look at our daily failures, why not look at our daily successes? 

For today’s pondering I’d like to ask that you stop and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Did I think about a failure today?
  • Did I think about a success today?
  • What did I think about this last week?
  • How do I define success?
  • Am I focusing on big SUCCESS?
  • What success(es) did I have today?
  • What success(es) did I have this last week?
  • How might I feel differently if every time I thought of a failure, I stop to also think of a success?

You are the only one that can define success for yourself.  You are in the driver’s seat.  Sometimes success might be about walking away from an opportunity.  Jonathan Field’s recent article Kill It to Build It reminded me of this earlier today.  Jonathan had a business idea but decided to “kill it” as it took him off what he viewed as his longer term path. 

The comments on his post and reactions were quite interesting.  While most were supportive, it was interesting to note the mix of judgmental and non-judgmental.  It made me stop to ponder how he felt after reading all the comments.  If it made him question himself?  I wondered how often we do this to others?

I think of life a both a juggling act and a tightrope walk.  We are trying to find that balance between short-term and long-term personal, professional, and family goals.  Often at the same time.  Additionally we move from one rope to another so maybe we should add in that areal act where we have to also have faith to let go of one bar and trust the other will be there to grab onto.  No wonder it’s often hard to feel a sense of achievement!

I think that maybe we need to adjust that success measure and realize that it’s not whether you dropped a ball or two, but rather you kept the other three, five, or seven in the air.  Not that you fell off the rope, but rather you climbed back up and got moving again.  It’s not that you missed catching the other bar, but rather you had the courage to let go of the first one.  Each and every one of these is a success.

Remember, you define both success and failure for yourself.  It’s something that I too need to remind myself on a regular basis.  I’ve found that there is no tougher judge of what I have done than myself.  Maybe it’s time to cut myself some slack or better yet, reframe how I measure success.  Will you join me?  

May you all be happy, healthy, and find success on whatever path you choose to take in life.   Remember, the power is yours.


  1. Faith,
    You have me thinking. Having change management as a career teaches me to have “measures of success”. That either comes in a lot of 100% successful small things or some important almost successful (maybe a B+ score) big things.

    I also am learning that a “C+” in my mind is often an “A” for the client (their capacity and vision are on a different scale).

    Reading your post also helps me realize personal success might be the easiest to come by and should be used as a balance for those times when my measure of success relies so heavily on others.

  2. Faith Fuqua-Purvis says:

    Garrett – Glad this got you thinking. Getting people thinking is a key objective of my ponderings as you know. In that vein, it serves as a reminder to myself to count this blog as a success for today!

    You are absolutely right in that we need to remember that others have a different vision and capacity.

    Interesting that you felt that personal success can be the esiest to come by. My gut reaction was that personal success is the hardest for me as I am frequently so hard on myself. I’m going to have to go off and ponder that idea. None the less, the point can be taken to look at the overall balance of work, personal, family, whatever your metrics and measures are. That often when challenged in one area, we should look to other aspects to be a full-view rather than simply focusing on the areas that are currently challenging and we might have a sense of failure. That infrequently is it truly failures across the board.

Guiding Principles

- Think Holistically
- Seek the Root Causes
- Respect the Individual
- Demonstrate Accountability
- Collaborate with Clients
- Work with Integrity, Always
- Relate to the Business Strategy
- Ensure Alignment
- Demonstrate Responsibility
- Transfer Skills

Thoughts and Quotes