The Definition Of Success: What You And The World's Top Business Leaders Have In Common

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Jacqueline Hernandez Lewis
Jacqueline Hernandez Lewis10
Attorney turned WFH Comms Mgr

When we are younger, we all grow up in pursuit of a common goal: success. In some form or another, the hope is that success will manifest into something great and will make life more enjoyable and less stressful as a result.

But when we make that wish,  we often do not ask ourselves what success really is — what it means to us, and therefore, what it is we really want. It is important to note that success is rather abstract and relative. What great success means to one person could very well not represent success for someone else. It can be tangible or it can be physical. It can be financial security, getting a bachelor’s degree, popularity, a bit of each or something entirely different.

Merriam-Webster defines success as the “favorable or desired outcome.” The variations of what success means are due, at least in part, to the relative nature of favorability and desirability. What one favors may not be desirable to another, and vice versa.

As you define your own success recipe, your definition of success could be career success. You may want to climb to the top of the corporate ladder and thrive in your work. Or, you might judge your success on the number of people you help. Maybe you help students find happiness and achievement, which leads you to find personal success. Or, it could mean having a strong work-life balance, graduating from a four-year college or something else altogether. The choice is up to you.

For me, success means trying one’s hardest to be the best version of their self. It means to have enjoyed life’s simplicity while giving back to the less fortunate. It is recognition of one’s success and, in light of this, practicing gratefulness.

Success is defined differently for everyone. Here is what success means to the following successful people:

“I’ve come to believe that each of us has a personal calling that’s as unique as a fingerprint — and that the best way to succeed is to discover what you love and then find a way to offer it to others in the form of service, working hard and also allowing the energy of the universe to lead you." — Oprah Winfrey, media proprietor, actress, producer and philanthropist.

“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do and liking how you do it." — Maya Angelou, acclaimed author.

“In the world of business, the people who are most successful are those who are doing what they love." —  Warren Buffett, business magnate, investor and philanthropist.

“[N]o one succeeds alone. Never walk alone in your future paths." — Justice Sonia Sotomayor, United States Supreme Court Justice.

“I'm convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.” — Steve Jobs, former CEO of Apple.

“To live the lives we truly want and deserve, and not just the lives we settle for, we need a Third Metric, a third measure of success that goes beyond the two metrics of money and power, and consists of four pillars: well-being, wisdom, wonder, and giving." — Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post and Thrive Global.

“Success is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration." — Thomas Edison, inventor.

“If you follow your dreams and spend your life doing what brings you joy, you are more likely to find success.” — Richard Branson, Virgin founder.

The common theme throughout the above definitions of success is that they are not defined by money, property or title. Rather, they’ve chosen to define their lives by a sense of satisfaction, happiness and service.

What does success mean to you?


Jackie is the owner of her blog Moments of Musing, where she writes about her life as a wife, mom, and more living in New York City. She works with survivors of intimate partner violence.