Four Success Secrets That Your Mom Never Told You

Success is characterized in many ways. Some people define it as attaining wealth, others as amassing power and still others think of it as achieving fame or notoriety. Coach and teacher, John Wooden, uses this definition: “Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.” The first step toward understanding success is to view it in the context of your own life. Here are four success secrets that will redefine how you view the world.

1. Success is defined by you

Success is in the eye of the beholder—there is no one-size-fits-all definition. It’s up to you to decide what it means to you and develop a plan to get there. While a more conventional definition may include being rich or powerful, people who actually are rich and powerful don’t define it that way. Some examples include Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington and Maya Angelou. While Richard Branson is worth over $4 billion, he equates success with happiness. He says that “too many people measure how successful they are by how much money they make or the people that they associate with. In my opinion, true success should be measured by how happy you are.” Arianna Huffington describes a new approach to defining success in her book, Thrive. She believes that it is no longer sustainable for human beings or for societies to continue to define it in terms of just money and power. She says,

To live the lives we truly want and deserve, and not just the lives we settle for, we need a Third Metric, a third measure of success that goes beyond the two metrics of money and power, and consists of four pillars: well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving.”

Finally, the late, great poet Maya Angelou viewed success as being about enjoying your work. Angelou believed that “success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”

2. Success is not about the end goal

Many people look forward to finding happiness at the end of the rainbow. They think, I’ll be successful when I get that promotion, when I buy my first Ferrari, when I have $1 million in the bank—the list goes on and on. The reality is that success isn’t about the end goal. It’s a journey. It’s the positive energy you feel when you’re striving to reach an important objective, not the destination. While on the journey, keep track of your progress and don’t forget to enjoy small wins. Celebrating those small wins will help you to stay motivated. Release yourself from the attachment to the end result and just try to enjoy the ride. You’ll learn a great deal along the way. As former professional tennis player Arthur Ashe says, “Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome.”

3. Success doesn’t happen overnight

Successful entrepreneurs and business leaders will tell you that there is no such thing as an overnight success. Real achievement happens through hard work, passion and perseverance. Fashion designer Tory Burch was described as an “overnight success” after opening her first store in 2004. She says, “I guess that made sense—if you didn’t count the 20,000 hours we put into building the business up to that day, or the combined half a million hours we all spent learning the industry in the years before that.” Then there’s Facebook. Dustin Moskovitz, one of Facebook’s cofounders, was once asked by a reporter how he felt about Facebook’s overnight success. Moskovitz responded, “If by ‘overnight success’ you mean staying up and coding all night, every night for six years straight, then it felt quite tiring and stressful.” What happens is that we often see and celebrate the achievement without acknowledging the years of hustle that it took to get there.

4. Success is not a straight line

Success is not a straight line; just ask anyone who climbed Mt. Everest! It resembles more of a long, twisted road with many peaks and valleys. There will be challenges and obstacles along the way that you will need to overcome. Successful people adapt in the face of adversity, and they don’t give up. Those same people will tell you that many of the things they discovered while overcoming obstacles were some of the best lessons they ever learned. As NBA superstar Michael Jordan says, “Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”

What does success mean to you? If you can’t define it, then you won’t be able to achieve it. Remember, the only definition of success that matters is yours. Make sure that definition reflects your goals, values and priorities. Ultimately, there are no shortcuts. Real success is the result of initiative, passion, persistence and just putting in the work.

If you’ve been thinking about being your own boss for a while but aren’t sure if it’s the right time, download my free resource: 5 Signs It’s Time to Leave Your Soul-Sucking Job!


  • Caroline Castrillon

    Founder/Career and Life Coach

    Corporate Escape Artist

    Caroline Castrillon is the founder of Corporate Escape Artist and a career and life coach whose mission is to help people go from soul-sucking job to career fulfillment. Caroline made the leap to entrepreneurship after a successful 25-year corporate career and has never looked back. Prior to Corporate Escape Artist, she worked in leadership positions for small tech firms and for large Fortune 500 companies including Dell and Sony. She has an MBA from the Thunderbird School of Global Management and is a Certified Professional Coach (CPC) and Energy Leadership Index Master Practitioner (ELI-MP). In addition to Thrive Global, she also contributes to Forbes and has been featured in publications including the New York Times, Entrepreneur, Inc. and Success Magazine.