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What determines peoples’ success in life?

What is success?

Recently, it was asked on Quora what determines peoples’ success in life and the answers were expectedly various, but one particular answer was dead wrong but got me to thinking about what determines success.

I know for sure that it isn’t “the quality of friends [you] keep” as the one person opines. Because let me tell you, some of my friends are extremely successful professionally (my bff is an American ambassador) yet terribly unsuccessful in love (she’s nearing the big three-oh and is still searching). Which is better? Another of my friends has an amazing marriage, four children and loves her life, but she is a part time maid and struggles financially. Which is better- money or familial success?

So the question has me stumped up front because “success” is so subjective. Self help guru Robert Collier says that success is “the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out” while shipping mogul Ari Onassis says “the secret to success is to know something no one else knows” and author William Feather says “success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go.”

So how do YOU define success?

Above are three varying views on success. Some define it in your daily life, others in having achieved a balanced life, ultimate happiness or buying a boat. Some say being successful means you’re wealthy, others say you are respected, others believe it is in being feared.

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Where do you stand? How do you define success?

I believe success is in the balance of a happy personal life and a respected professional life.

How do you determine success?

The answers on Quora varied and all but one are valid. Because short answers tend to perform better on Quora, I said that “Not a wish to succeed, but the drive to make your commitments happen.”

In my line of work, I watch a lot of enthusiastic people start projects and even businesses but lose steam when they get distracted by something shiny. It is my belief that the world is filled with thinkers that romanticize about success, but a rare few that are doers.

When my husband and I were full time at the brokerage, we gave our playbook away for free to anyone that wanted it because the chances were so extremely slim of anyone actually executing that it never hurt to share. We continue to do the same today.

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Tell us in comments how you define success and what determines that success. Do you agree that the main component is the drive to make your commitments happen or is it something completely different?

Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.



  1. Misty Lackie

    March 29, 2011 at 11:08 am

    Loving some of your recent posts Lani. “It is my belief that the world is filled with thinkers that romanticize about success, but a rare few that are doers.” I 100% agree with this.

  2. BawldGuy

    March 29, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    Is there ever real success without a solid sense of contentment and happiness? Can’t tell you how many miserable people I’ve known who are ‘successful’. Success without contentment and happiness is oxymoronic in my book.

  3. Caprena

    April 13, 2012 at 7:25 am

    What determines success in my opinion depends on how you determine relationships. In my observation, there have been many successes…fame, rising star in a business, starting a family, etc., however as Lani stated they fall. They may not fall all at one time, but they lose the passion somewhere down the road. But one thing I have noticed on people who fail at success is that they have not utilize building relationships. You cannot go through this life without accessing keys to trust, alliance, bond, networking, profit-making, efficacious, rewarding, and careful planning… And my biggest pet peeve…BEING PROACTIVE! Many lack these very few words in their life, which results in not succeeding

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