Every once in a while I think it’s important to step out of the trees and re-ask yourself the really big questions.

This week I had the pleasure of moderating a panel discussion made up of successful entrepreneurs. While we covered the tactical stuff, the planning, correcting, hindsight, marketing and money, I asked them each this two-part question.

What’s your definition of success and how has it changed?

Entrepreneurs are an odd bunch really. When I ask them to talk about their businesses, they glow with excitement and get all nerdy about the granular aspects of what makes their very successful widget go, but ask them about personal success and most go “ah shucks” on you.

Here’s my thought on this. Entrepreneurs have a really tough time defining success because most entrepreneurs are never satisfied with where they are today. They already have the picture of what could be if they just got the rest of the pieces in place.

Now I’m not saying this is an altogether unhealthy state of mind, but it can sure ruin some dinner conversation with your spouse. I do think it’s something worth noting and working on.

I believe that you can and should celebrate the personal wins all along the way while still holding a glimpse of the eventual destination. Anyone who has done any climbing knows that false peaks are both a gift and a bummer. They drive you on because you feel like you’re almost there and they ground you because your realize you’ve still got a ways to go.

Every business owner should develop a personal definition of success and use it as a filter for all the stuff that goes on in the tornado. I have a personal definition of success and it’s different than yours. How do I know that, because it has to be. No one can authentically share the same specific measure of success, but they may die trying.

So back to my original thought. What’s your definition of success and how has it changed?

For me, it’s very important to think of success in milestones. Sometimes those are tangible – 1 million page views a month, sometimes they are intangible – stuff seems to be falling at my feet lately. But, most importantly, I define success as a way to feel completely jazzed about what’s happening today while holding a picture of what I know can happen tomorrow. (Kind of corny I suppose, but without that view I get the life sucked out of from time to time.)

How has it changed? All I can say is that the more inward I look, the more I surround myself with passionate people, the more I share, the better it gets. (Thanks for stomaching that one.)

So, what’s your definition of success and how has it changed?

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John Jantsch

John Jantsch is a marketing consultant, speaker and author of Duct Tape Marketing, Duct Tape Selling, The Commitment Engine and The Referral Engine and the founder of the Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network.
  • John,
    Interesting question. One that I have been thinking about lately. And one that has changed for me as well. I used to think of success in terms of power and money, however I have re-defined it as time and freedom. I am looking at money as more of a vehicle than a possession. And I’m tired of trading 50-60 quality hours per week for it as well.

  • You have come up with a great definition of success John. It falls right in line with what Earl Nightingale taught about success being a journey!

    Success is definitely a personal thing, meaning something quite unique to each individual.

  • Dottie Walters said, “Success is a staircase, not a doorway.”

    I blogged about this in August, so I’ll quote myself: “This quote reminds me that each step I take brings me a little closer to my goals. And that each step is an achievement in itself.”

    I don’t need external approval or acknowledgment any more to feel successful; I got over that a long time ago.

  • At the end of the day the most successful person is the one who spends the most time doing what they love and being around the people that they love.

  • Setting practical goals and milestones definitely helps an business feel successful. Like the death of the “Under Construction” image on websites, entrepreneurs should recognize the need to constantly improve while embracing the current small successes of their businesses.

  • swati

    success is the degree to which a person manages to be satisfied with general contents of his or her routine.