“Happiness is not determined by success…your success is determined by your happiness”

I recently started reading the international Japanese bestseller, “The Courage to be Disliked,” by authors Ichiro Kishimi  and, Fumitake Kog. Having lived in Japan for five years, I thought I had learned quite a bit about Japanese culture. And I loved it when my sister married into a Japanese family. I felt a genuine connection to the family and the culture.

What I found I had not quite learned, was the meaning of a life lived with the courage to just be happy. Happiness, I have learned through trial and error, is not derived from the attainment of some successful outcome.

Happiness I learned is non-contingent, and comes through living life courageously . A life dedicated to not following the crowd. A life dedicated to the process and the journey towards successful outcomes.

A few summers past, I sat in the backyard and watched my grandkids play in the sprinkler, like we did when I was a kid.

The joys and sounds of summer. The girls playing in the sprinkler.

I watched as my oldest granddaughter tried to fill her bucket with water from the sprinkler. Watching her I could tell she was getting a bit frustrated as she could only capture drops.

“It will take a week to fill that bucket up that way,” I said to her.

“Can you think of a better way to do it?” I asked.

Rather than get discouraged she said cheerfully, “okay Nana I just need to figure out a better way,” and off she went to think about it.

As I watched her play and think, she sang, did cartwheels and twirled around, but she never stopped thinking. With success on her mind, the idea came to her, and she rushed back over to the sprinkler, held her bucket almost to the sprinkler mouth (yes she was soaking wet but that was not the point, it was the benefit) and filled her bucket with water.

Despite her set back she did what we all should do. She remained happy while things weren’t so great, and she had a problem. She remained happy until her success came. She had a problem, she knew that, but she didn’t think the problem could take away her happiness, her joy.

Problem solved, she was both happy and successful.

What does that have to do with the courage to be disliked? Well according to Alfred Adler, whose work this international bestseller is based upon, most people in my granddaughter’s situation, would have given up, gone along with the crowd and forgotten about the objective, because it would have been too hard.

Some would have relied upon old behavior patterns and just settled for the small amount of water in the bucket. Adler understood they would have focused on how it would take them out of their comfort zone, or the risk (getting drenched) involved, or how they could never be happy until they found the answer. Their happiness would have been contingent upon the problem being solved.

The courage to be disliked, is the courage to be different. To think differently. To be happy even when it’s hard. Last week when my grands zoom called me to thank me for the oldest grands birthday presents, my granddaughter said to me, “Nana, I want to be just like you when I grow up.” She thanked me for her gifts and went off singing the Stevie Wonder version of Happy Birthday, loudly to herself.

“No,” I thought as I hug up from that zoom call…you will be happier and much more successful than I.

During this time of quiet, and space brought on by the Coronavirus, I’m hoping you’ve given yourself time to rethink your success. You see success is not related to just work. Although that’s the success we always hear about.

Your success is related to you. As Alfred Adler would say, “Meanings are not determined by situations, but we determine ‘ourselves’ by the meanings we give to situations.” In my granddaughters case she was going to be happy regardless of whether she filled that bucket or not.

Today, why not have the courage to just be happy. Let your happiness drive your success. Don’t wait on success until you can be happy.

And that’s a brilliant glimpse of insight!™


  • Yolanda is a businesswoman, photographer and executive leader.  Starting and running a successful entrepreneurial business for many years in the beauty space, she has also worked in the non-profit, public and human service sectors. Author, adovcate and philanthropist she has created the Brilliant Glimpse of Insight™ or B.G.I™ initiative. This initiative is to motivate and encourage leaders from all walks of life to lead with strength, courage, wisdom and emotional intelligence to help transform the lives of the people they serve.