What Success Really Looks Like


Everyone has their own definition of success. Mine is not to own a jet, hobnob with CEOs, or work a mere four hours a week. My definition of success is to be a force for good in the world and to make a decent living doing what I love while spending lots of time with people I care about. So far, so good.

The middle part — the “making a decent living doing what I love” part — THAT took the longest. Way longer than I’d imagined or hoped.

Success is not that hard. But it is rare because not many people are willing to do the work. The biggest requirement for success is just sticking to something for as long as it takes until you get the desired result (or something better.)

When I say as long as it takes, what I really mean is: AS LONG AS IT TAKES. I can’t tell you if it will take months or years or decades. It just takes as long as it takes. Don’t get fooled into thinking that anything good happens overnight, and don’t get discouraged by the rejections, failures, and the 12-car pileups that will surely come your way. Even if you have some early success, the lumps will get you eventually. It’s the Universe’s way of seeing what you’re made of.

Stick with it long enough, and you’ll figure things out.

One caveat: Doing something that doesn’t work over and over and over again is NOT persistence. It’s stupid. You’ve got to keep trying new stuff, doing more of the stuff that works and less of the stuff that doesn’t. Dimitri Martin has a neat drawing in his book This Is A Book that illustrates this:


That seems about right, in my experience. In the long run, you end up where you were hoping, but the path is never direct. There are times when you feel like you might be going backwards, or repeating the same failure over and over again. There are times when you’ll feel hopelessly lost. That’s part of the process. See the arrow on the left? That’s fiction. Don’t compare your journey to the arrow on the left, because it doesn’t exist in reality.

So keep going. Keep tinkering. Don’t give up.

You can do it. Just stick to it.

[ About the Art: Can a cactus ever look cute? I think I pulled it off on this one. I’m pretty happy with how this piece turned out, especially since the color scheme was very experimental for me. Although it wasn’t the main subject, I wanted to capture the big sky and sweeping vista of the desert. The sky could indicate that it’s either just after sunrise or just before sunset, which actually works great. If it’s in the morning, it’s preparing you to brace yourself for the long haul. If it’s in the evening, it’s reassuring you that the persistence is part of the process. At least that’s the hope. ]

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  1. geoffrey says:

    I think these principles apply no matter the endeavor – not just success in business – success in fulfilling lifelong dreams, in family, friendships, romance, etc. – “As long as it takes” especially stands out for me.

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