What does success mean to you?


The term means different things to different people - for example the quotes I put below.


What do you think makes one a successful person?


When I was younger I thought success was something different. I thought, " When I grow up, I want to be famous. I want to be a star. I want to be in movies. When I grow up I want to see the world, drive nice cars. I want to have groupies." But my idea of success is different today. For me, the most important thing in your life is to live your life with integrity and not to give into peer pressure, to try to be something that you're not. To live your life as an honest and compassionate person. To contribute in some way.

Ellen DeGeneres, Tulane Commencement Speech, 2009

Real success is finding your lifework in the work that you love.

David McCullough (1933 - )

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The person who makes a success of living is the one who see his goal steadily and aims for it unswervingly. That is dedication.

Cecil B. DeMille (1881 - 1959)

What's money? A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do.

Bob Dylan (1941 - )

While Cecil and Bob are technicially in agreement, I suspect Cecil had a more ambitious day in mind.
I can't help but think the real question is "what makes a life meaningful". Any fool can reach a bar if set low enough.
Ellen is certainly more ambitious than most, and I appreciate what she's accomplished. Her quote provides clues that lead towards meaning. It seems there are facets of personal effort that can be considered success. Both "what to accomplish" and "how to do it" are important aspects that can give one enormous satisfaction.
Beyond that, I've got nothin'. I have no job, play video games all day and live in my parents basement (just kidding).

Thank you Greg!
I agree Davey!
Thanks so much for your reply!
Kindness and sensitivity toward others - I guess that makes me successful - and you too Davey!

I try to be happy with myself.  My first thought was if one is pleased with oneself, one is successful.

My second thought was If one has learned how to separate fantasy from reality, one is successful.

However, I haven't thought about this topic since becoming an atheist, so these are just preliminary thoughts on the subject.

Thank you Idaho Spud for your input. I do think that being able to think critically makes you successful  - no beliefs in fantasy and myths.

To me, success means being happy with the choices I've made in life and having a feeling of contentment when going to bed at night.  And although I don't believe I should care about what other people think of me, the ultimate bottom line is that I should care that others look upon me as a person of integrity.  In order to accomplish this, I know I must live my life ethically and morally, two characteristics which I believe are critical to my definition of being successful. 

Interesting that, after Ellen had achieved what she sought, it no longer seemed adequate.  I'm not famous, have no groupies, etc., but I became educated, had a successful career, married well, had four children I can be proud of, and now have 7 grandchildren and a great-grandchild.  I meet my definition of success.  I'm generally happy, pleased with my situation.

  • harmony with the people I love
  • creative productivity at work
  • a moderately clean home
  • a strong, healthy body
  • a tolerable mood state
  • opportunities to ride motorcycles, play outside, play music, and get laid

Everybody defines success to suit his thinking but success is something which must be accepted and appreciated by others too. One most common and popular measure of someone's success is his money.

Okay Steph, you may have another blockbuster issue here, or it may fizzle.

Success ought to be defined by the individual, not by societal norms. For me a sense of well-being is critical. I try to achieve this in part by exercising most days. I love to go to the point of exhaustion, hiking up mountains and straining to breathe, legs feeling like jelly, and push on. I dropped the law practice after fifteen years of misery. I am just lucky that I am skilled enough to pursue my passion, handicapping horse races. It is a real trip to earn a living wagering on horses when it is so utterly difficult.

Of course no discussion of success can omit human relationships. If you can sustain a few real human connections, not the ersatz stuff, that contributes greatly to well-being. Animals, the non-human variety are significant in feeling the connectedness too.

I also have an insatiable need to understand. So I read and wonder about lots of stuff. I love the quote digression is the oxygen of intelligence. And a sense of awe for existence and all it entails and the abstruse and impenetrable universe add to sense of well-being. Imagine what a drag if we had it all figured out.

And humor is the sine qua non of happiness. It has to be innate and it is in part a realization how wierd things are. Success is anything but marriage, two kids, a good job and a white picket fence.




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