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The subject of “how to be successful” seems to be a straightforward discussion.  In American culture the concept of success is almost always about business or wealth.  Indeed, these can be indicators of success. This subject, I’ve found, is really much deeper and complex than you might image.

For years I was trapped in the perception that tangible assets were the only way to define success.  If I didn’t hit it big in business or wealth then I was not going to have a successful life.  Or so I thought.  Even when I became a Christian this perception colored my thought and plans.

I’m wasn’t alone in this either.  It is a testament as to how powerful cultural messages can be in our life.  If you stop and think about it, there are few movies, television shows, radio programs, books, magazine articles, or advertising messages that don’t portray “success” as a lifestyle based on affluence.

It has been reported that we each receive over 1,000 of these kinds of messages daily.  Were they of a different nature some would say it is brain washing.

Success is a much more individual and personal concept than what we’ve been told.  Business and financial success are wonderful.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  This kind of success provides jobs, stimulates our economy, and give people the resources to do many wonderful things.

But there is a different way to look at this.  For the next few minutes I want you to shift your perspective of how to be successful.  A big business or a million dollars in the bank is not success in itself.  Rather it is a measure of an accomplishment.

Success is about knowing your destination and who you become on the journey to get there.



What is success?

Hollywood and Madison Avenue would have us believe that success is all about money, fame, and sex.  I suppose that for some people this is true.  Far too many people use this idea of success as their model.  Pop culture, movies, the media, and music are their guide as to how to live.  This, of course, is a choice we are free to make. If someone’s idea of success is fame and fortune then they have their own journey to get there.

Some idea of this was also my definition of success in my younger years.  Not that I was seeking fame or celebrity, but I did see that as a measure of someone who “made it”.  As I matured and grew in faith and wisdom I began to see that as far too superficial.  It also seemed that it was too tempting (or maybe necessary?) to make immoral and unethical choices to attain it.  That was going to be in direct conflict with my core values and my priorities. My definition, or vision, of success had to be much more personal.

Herein lies the true secret of how to be successful.  Success is personal.  It is visionary.  It is consistent with the compass of your soul and spirit.  And it is all about your Purpose.

This means that success is and should be very different for each of us.  On the surface it may seem similar. But since we are all individuals with unique design, our definition of success will be just as unique.

The core of any definition of success must be about who you become and not what you do.  You can be accomplished at what you do.  Tangible accomplishments are results of effectively applying skills, talents, experience, wisdom, etc. You can be very successful at building a business by leveraging these attributes.


In your family you may be a great husband, wife, or parent and raise wonderful children.  These are all good things to do.  However, if aren’t focused on who you should become in the process, I challenge you to rethink your definition of success.

Your individual Purpose is to become someone.  Someone very unique. It is the person you were designed to be.

In the process of becoming that person you will achieve many things, may good things.  It could be that business that ethically serves a market with integrity, that provides employment for families, and gives you a platform of influence in your organization and community.  The success that actually matters for a business owner is not in the bottom line.  It lies in that person living their Purpose.  The business could be the vehicle by which they may live their Purpose.

It is likewise in our personal lives.  We may create a wonderful, lasting marriage.  We may raise children who become wonderful adults.  These are all good things and, for a time in our lives, parenting should be one of our main priorities.  Over time this will change. You won’t be raising kids all of your life, yet your Purpose will remain constant – becoming a person you were designed to be.



Success is often confused with a destination.  Meaning that you can’t be successful until you arrive somewhere.  This idea is often reinforced when we hear someone described as “overnight success”.  It is as if one day a person does something and then suddenly, overnight, they are successful.

Living here in Nashville I have had the opportunity to meet a few overnight successes in the entertainment business.  They are riding a fame wave and building a brand.  It often sounds like they came out of nowhere.  As if one day the public is completely unaware of them and the next day they are on the cover of People Magazine.  Or so it would seem.

This is actually a very rare occurrence.  It may seem as if they suddenly burst upon the scene and achieved instant fame.   When you talk to them beyond the celebrity of it all, as a person, you find something different.

What you hear is someone who has toiled for years.   They had a vision and burning desire to make it in their profession.  They poured all they had into their pursuit to get to the top.   What I found interesting is that they believed they could not have made it were it not for that long journey.  They became much better by having worked hard for their goal than if someone had offered them a contract ten years earlier.  Of course, they would have taken it, but the end result may have been different.

This is true for your Purpose and how you can be successful in what matters to you.  Whichever way you might define it, the getting there is the most important part.


Over the next few weeks I am going to unwrap this further.  Several times in my writing I have referenced Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits book.  The one concept from his work that has stuck with me over the years since I first read it is this…

“Most people spend their whole lives climbing the ladder of success only to realize, when they get to the top, the ladder has been leaning against the wrong wall”

You want to lean your ladder against your Purpose wall.  It doesn’t mean you have to exclude other ethically attained goals.  Many of those will complement and enable your Purpose.

Before you start or continue the climb, let’s be sure you know what wall you want to scale.

Are you ready to go on this journey with me?

    1 Response to "How To Be Successful In What Matters"

    • Jeff Slater

      Good stuff Rick and I feel the very same way.

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