The Definition of Success


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"Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life - think of it, dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success.”
– Swami Vivekananda --



What is success? How can I come successful? There's a library's worth of self-help books on how to become successful. Yet, at the end of the day, each of us decides our own personal definition of success. How will we balance security and adventure, challenge and safety, mastery versus risk-taking?. 


Learning expert Dawna Markova's words are simple yet profound: "Each of us is here to give something that only we can offer, and when we avoid knowing ourselves, we end up living numb, passionless lives, disconnected from our soul's true purpose."

How do we figure out that true purpose? Sometimes, it comes to us when we quiet the busyness in our hectic lives, when we look inward. For young adults, it often requires moving through the world, engaging in many new and different experiences to find what calls us, what excites us.

While you are figuring out how you want to define success, it's useful to build leadership capacities, because the more capacity you own, the more options you will have over time. 

Knowing yourself well is one capacity. Speaking effectively is another. So are writing persuasively, speaking a second language, and learning how to read a financial statement. The capacity that seems to be the best predictor of long-term success in the work world is learning agility-the ability to keep acquiring new knowledge, building ever more capacity.

We know that adventures, such as traveling to new places and undertaking new projects, build capacity. Real-life work experiences-managing deadlines, receiving/giving feedback, identifying problems, and developing creative solutions-all build capacity and skills. This proves especially true when the work is new and different. Working in teams, interacting with

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diverse people, dealing with ambiguity, being forced to reconsider closely held ideas, conceptualizing new strategies, recovering from a serious mistake-all of these experiences develop adaptability, flexibility, creativity, and emotional security in a rapidly changing world.

Powerful learning opportunities that promote lifetime skills and lessons are found in everyday experiences. Organizing a college event, building a school in Haiti, building a home with Habitat For Humanity, or directing a dance performance are the kinds of experiences that help us grow our capacities.


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