What Does Success Look Like

The word success comes from the Latin word Successes, meaning a good result or a happy outcome.

But, success does have a dark side.

Many success stories are filled with dark, crazy, unforeseen twists and turns.

You can gain a lot of attention and respect and become an overnight success. Or you can gain fame, recognition, and success for all the wrong reasons.

Like scandal.

But What Does Success Look Like For You?

The root word for success is also used in the word successive. Or activities that follow on behind one another.

If you want to lift 50 pounds, you need to build the ability to lift 10 successively, then 20, and so on.

A successful bodybuilder doesn’t start with 80-pound dumbbells and try to do curls.

But why not…

Because that would wind up damaging their joints and tearing muscles, there is no progressive overload.

Success is a Path

In the beginning, success may be one lonely person at the weight bench with two twenty-five-pound dumbells or plates on the bar.

Trying to get their form just right.

Over time, this person can do amazing things. But their path can often be lonely. 

Without the final vision for what you want your hard work to turn into, success will be a lot of effort with very little joy.

Like a lot of things in our lives, being a success will take a lot of thinking, especially at the beginning. So, make sure the path you’re headed down is truly a path that’s going to take you to where you want to be.

Success Looks Like a Series of Small Improvements

If you want to learn to hike so you can become a serious climber, make sure each hike on your path to more strength is also a celebration.

A celebration of the small things and small wins along the way.

Because you can’t reach the top of a mountain without first hiking 1/2 way up and is 1/2 way the top of the mountain?

No, not yet.

But when you do get halfway up the mountain, you’ve brought yourself that much closer to the top.

And let’s say you don’t want to hike. Instead, you want to learn how to paint landscape paintings.

First, You’ll Need to Be Able to Paint:

  • Leaves from all sorts of trees
  • Flowers in many colors
  • Clouds, both full and wispy
  • Water, frothy and calm

And the list goes on from there.

Each new skill is a wonderful place to stop, breathe, celebrate, and consider what it took to master it before building successive skills on top of the original.

What does success look like to a successful artist, a dedicated mountain climber, or an award-winning bodybuilder?

Success is a mindset.

It looks like many attempts, quite a few flops, failure, and eventually a couple of wins.

Success is a Lot Like Fishing, Not Catching

If fishing were easy, it would just be called catching…

But, it’s not!

Fishing can be really hard. And it’s not for everybody. It requires a lot of patience and is know-how.

Fishing Requires:

  • Getting up early
  • Being willing to handle worms
  • Dealing with mosquitoes
  • Standing in cold water
  • Handling the fish if you’re lucky enough to catch one
  • The possibility of sunburn

If you’re successful, your reward will be a fish.

And if you really want a fish, it’ll be worth all the other hassles that come along with fishing. But if for some reason it’s not, then it’s time to reassess your goals and your path.

Because building professional success or success in any area is a lot like figuring out if you really want a fish.

It’s said that if you do what you love, the money will follow. This is encouraging but rather simplistic.

What Does Success Look Like Even if You Love What You’re Doing?

If you’re a writer, it looks like a lot of time at the computer.

The agony of pitching your newly delivered brainchild to an editor who really doesn’t care. And rejection.

Lots of rejection. That is success.

It’s not all the glory you see on TV or social media. Success can be a painful process. It won’t be fast, and it damn sure won’t happen for most of us overnight.

And if you want to make it as a professional musician, actor, or dancer, it looks like performing for folks who may or may not be kind to you.

Injury, exhaustion, and never getting a weekend off.

Lost friends, feeling, and being misunderstood. And questioning. Lots of questioning.

But if you want to be successful and design buildings, handbags, or cars, it means a lot of time in school or learning. Spending long hours at the drafting board and computer, and once again rejection.

If your goal is a killer physique, be prepared for 4-5 weekly gym sessions and hours in the kitchen or meal prepping.

But when you do finally reach your goal and achieve the success you’ve defined, smile, and take a victory lap.

Because success is admirable when you look back and see what is required of YOU.

But coming up with the energy to stay relentless takes some serious vision. And in addition to working hard, you have to learn to be your own cheerleader as well.

Success is Demanding

Many of us have a bad cultural habit of seeing success as a lottery ticket.

Like the bodybuilder, you see just woke up looking tanned and toned. But that is never the case.

We don’t see the hours in the gym, the sore muscles, the brace from when the athlete screwed up their elbow. Or the cookies, ice cream, pizza, and the many other meals they skipped out on with friends and family.

And even a successful business owner can look terrific in their new suit on the front page of the paper.

But Those Admiring Her Don’t See:

  • The many hours of lonely effort on the weekends
  • Early morning crunch sessions
  • The late nights working through the books
  • Or the days when nothing worked

The biggest problem with treating success as either a winning lottery ticket or going straight to the top of the mountain is that we see it as an end.

And there is no end in sight when it comes to success. Success is an unlimited game. There is no finish line.

Because even when you win a race, there’s always another one right around the corner.

So when you’re creating your goals and figuring out what success really means to you, don’t just think about the result. Ask yourself – what now?

What comes next after you’ve achieved the success you seek?

Because let’s say you want to dance in a Broadway show. You better be ready to wear out a lot of tap shoes and bust up your toes practicing.

But you should absolutely go for it!

Just make sure you have a plan in place for the day after you succeed and when you finally do make your Broadway debut.

Success is About Making Mistakes

It’s said folks have a fear of success, so they never try.

For some, this may be true. But for many, the fact is they’re afraid of making a visible mistake. So they stick with what they know.

When they miss a step dancing practice at the community theatre show a few people will know. Mess up on Broadway, and more folks will know. Screw up on TV and everyone knows.

But the best way to learn is to try and do your best. And if you completely screw things up, okay.

So be it…

Because then you can fix things. Learn from what went wrong. And find a path around the mistake and roadblocks that held you up in the first place.

Just keep at it and never give up.

Success eventually comes when you never stop trying. When you use every mistake as a lesson to get one step closer to achieving your goals.

So… the next time you’re asked what success looks like?

Tell them all of the above.

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