The Subjectivity of Success

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The American Dream is a national ethos felt by its citizens surrounding the ideology that freedom contributes to prosperity and success. It is referred to constantly as the building block of our country. The American dream states that with determination, one can experience success in all aspects of life. But what is success? All seem to be chasing it, yet no one knows an exact, entirely agreeable definition of the term.

Individualize Definition

Do not let the lack of definitiveness of the word steer you away from the idea of success, it is a very good thing that success is subjective. This allows everyone the opportunity to celebrate their successes, however they see fit. As a society, many have deemed many people as “successful,” whether that be an actor or a politician or an athlete or someone from the top 1%. These people, though they have acquired success, still are unable to entirely define it collectively. Here’s a look at a few “successful” people’s definitions of the word, to remind you of the subjectivity of success.

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Barack Obama

First lady Michelle Obama explained that “For Barack, success isn’t about how much money you make. It’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.” 

Warren Buffet

“I measure success by how many people love me.”

Mark Cuban

“To me, the definition of success is waking up in the morning with a smile on your face, knowing it’s going to be a great day. I was happy and felt like I was successful when I was poor, living with six guys in a three-bedroom apartment, sleeping on the floor.”

Maya Angelou

“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”

Winston Churchill

“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”

Denzel Washington

“Success? I don’t know what that word means. I’m happy. But success, that goes back to what in somebody’s eyes success means. For me, success is inner peace. That’s a good day for me.”

Dwayne Johnson

“Success isn’t overnight. It’s when every day you get a little better than the day before. It all adds up.”

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Power in Perception

It is clear that success means different things to different people. Maybe one of these definitions did not truly align with your beliefs of success — and that’s okay. That’s actually the whole point. Allow yourself to define success in a way that motivates you to work hard, while also honoring your achievements at hand. Individualize your perception of success.

Let us know what you deem to be successful in your life by tweeting us, @VALLEYmag, on Twitter.



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