What Success Really Looks Like


When I’m meeting with a client for the first time and we are discussing project scope and potential outcomes, I usually ask, “So, what does success look like?”

The responses I get vary greatly. Some clients pause for a moment and ask me why I would ask such a thing. Other clients tell me that no one had ever asked them that before. But whatever the response is, it always sparks a conversation around how we can design a solution that will meet the needs of their business, their clients, and their employees.

The reason I ask this question in the beginning of a project is that it draws out the real goals and objectives that the client is trying to meet. Sometimes, we discover that the client can’t articulate what success looks like. This means that they haven’t fully thought through their needs and are having trouble identifying what their problems really are. If they don’t know what the problem is then they will not be able to define possible solutions. By going through this process of questioning and discovery, clients learn that to define success, they need to have thought about goals, objectives, and potential outcomes.

So, as individuals, are we really any different?

How do we define success? Many people equate success with financial stability, personal freedom and empowerment, accumulation of wealth, or other things. Some people feel that they aren’t successful until they acquire these things or reach a certain place of status. But what many of us fail to ask ourselves is, “What does success really look like?” Being able to visualize our personal success is a key ingredient to achieving it. We’re all able to describe what failure looks like but to define success, that’s a bit more difficult.

Earl Nightingale, a famous broadcaster and motivational speaker, gave the best definition of personal success I’ve ever read. He stated the following in his book and audio recording, The Strangest Secret:

“We are at our very best, and we are happiest, when we are fully engaged in work we enjoy on the journey toward the goal we’ve established for ourselves. It gives meaning to our time off and comfort to our sleep. It makes everything else in life so wonderful, so worthwhile.”

So maybe, success is not just a destination, but includes the ongoing process and journey where we continue to move toward our ultimate vision of who we can become.