The Subtleties of Success

Originally guest-blogged 9/20/2010 on Get Your Leadership Big On, the home site of my amazing friend Jane Perdue, aka The HR Goddess.

In rare cases, a concept can be more easily defined by describing what it ISN’T, rather than what it is. For example, many Physicists describe “darkness” as “the absence of light.” The Physics Classroom states it this way:

“Black is not actually a color. Technically speaking, black is merely the absence of the wavelengths of the visible light spectrum.”

Much like darkness, success is a concept best described by what it isn’t. Just as all that glitters isn’t gold, that which seems to be successful isn’t always so. When most folks think of success, they associate it with achieving a given objective. But true success is deeper and richer than this. There is a subtle difference between genuine success and moral failure: a thin dividing line that many miss.

Here’s the D.E.A.L.

I propose that true success lies in achieving the objective, WITHOUT sacrificing in these four areas:

  • Devotion
    The most common regret expressed by the dearly departing is that they spent too much time striving and not enough time connecting. As the saying goes, no headstone reads “If only I’d spent more time at the office.”

    Consider this: If turning a profit requires turning your back on loved ones, can such an endeavor truly be called a success?

  • Ethics
    Although no one begins an initiative with a plan to stray from their moral compass, temptations and shortcuts inevitably show up. Amazingly, there ARE those who reluctantly choose astounding profit with a side of guilt over modest profit and a clear conscience.

    Consider this: If an objective is met at the expense of one’s own ethics, can it truly be called a success?

  • Altruism
    Ambition is a powerful thing, and like most forms of power, it can be used for good or ill. The way to measure if ambition if healthy or corrupt is by taking a sober look at who benefits from the resulting achievements. If many prosper through the ambition of one, the ambition was pure, and led to success.

    Consider this: If you’re the only one to benefit from your victory, can it truly be called a success?

  • Loyalty
    Notable tennis champion Althea Gibson has famously said, “No matter what accomplishments you make, somebody helped you.” I believe this to be true of nearly all victories. But as projects meet with inevitable complications, many blame others and absolve themselves. When stakes are high, too many dispose of relationships in order to protect reputation.

    Consider this: If you break trust in order to claim credit, can the accomplishment truly be called a success?

So you see, subtle though it may be, supposed success that demands such sacrifices is simply no success at all. So be true to your values and honor your conscience. You’ll reap the reward of genuine victory in your life and leadership.

2 Responses to “The Subtleties of Success”

  1. Everybody has darkness. (because as you mentioned it does exist)
    Everyone has failures. (even though they are scared to admit it)
    Everyone has successes (and many claim they got there on their own)

    But if we truly acknowledge the Subtleties of Success as you say and embrace D. E. A. L.
    then maybe we wouldn’t be so afraid to acknowledge our values and beliefs.
    And we would allow our inner beings to shine.

    Thanks for the brilliant post.
    I truly enjoy reading your insightful thoughts.

    • I’m sorry grateful for your words here, Lolly. I appreciate that you’re sharing your wisdom here. I’m inspired by the possibilities that lie ahead! Thank you for all of your encouragement. – Tristan

%d bloggers like this: