It seems that there is a mental connection between money and success. For example, if I mention that my uncle is very successful, then you would naturally assume that he is wealthy. This response is nearly universal, but can success really be quantified by dollars and cents?

Let’s try it.

If so, there must be a line you can cost which divides the successful from the unsuccessful. The million dollar mark seems most appropriate. The word millionaire is a nice word. Millionaires are successful. Still, there are problems with drawing such a hard and fast line. Each year that inflation devalues the dollar, millionaires have less and less purchasing power. Also, the million dollar mark is very abstract as it is based on American Currency. Do millionaires in Europe need a million Euros, or is the currency conversion necessary? These issues make this hard and fast success definition seem ridiculous.

Alternatively, we can consider success as a relative amount of wealth. We could call a man successful once he has twice the wealth of the average person in his culture or society. Still, I have to believe that success is more definite. Suppose a person moves oversees to a less developed nation. Are they made successful overnight? No! True success is not so trivial. Such a relative definition of success is insufficient for our desire to clearly understand it.

How else do we perceive success? Consider the following questions:

  • What is a successful racehorse?
  • What is a successful Pastor?
  • What is a successful U.S. President?
  • What is a successful Student?

My answers to these questions are likely similar to yours. A successful racehorse wins races often and consistently. The Pastor would likely show success by growing a large and faithful congregation. The President’s success would have more to do with uniting the nation in peace and prosperity than his personal finances. Lastly, a student who can master his material and obtain high grades is considered successful. This indicates that success has something to do with producing good work. Imagine a lazy boy who inherits 5 million dollars. You and I are much more likely to call him lucky than successful, because his wealth is unrelated to his performance. There is a quote from Earl Nightingale which states, “People with goals succeed because they know where they are going.” It is evident that we often link success with ideas like exceptional performance and achieving goals.

From what we have discussed, I would like to redefine success as it seems best to me. It isn’t financial, nor is it easily measurable from outside the individual. It is personal. Success is fulfilling your mission in life. I believe that each individual is endowed with unique gifts which can be employed to fulfill a specific need. As we find our purposes in life, our success is measured to the degree that we pursue and fulfill that purpose. During this pursuit, money and skill will often come. However, the money is only the outside manifestation; it should not be confused with the success of doing what you are most suited for, and doing it to the best of your ability.

If I am to be successful, I cannot focus on how much money I have, or compare my wealth to that of my neighbors. To do so would be a distraction. Instead I must discover my skills and use them to benefit the world.

Then again, should I happen to end up wealthy, I won’t complain.