The secret to becoming a successful mofo

Published September 14, 2016   Posted in How to Think

Just don’t be an asshole.

Pinterest: Secret to Success? Don't buy it!Okay, while true, that doesn’t exactly tell the whole story. Being successful is slightly more involved than avoiding the qualities of an asshole or asshat. Yes, you shouldn’t be one. But, what else? What is the secret to success, and can anybody reach success?

First, success means different things to different people. Ultimately, our goals and ambitions serve as the foundation on which success is built.ย OURย goals, not someone else’s.

The secret to becoming successful

Thus, lesson number one: Never judge YOUR success on the success of someone else. Otherwise, you’ll never feel successful. In virtually all walks of life, there will always be someone at a higher position than you. Better than you. More experienced than you. A better public speaker. More wealthy. A math wiz. A seasoned pool shark. Don’t let their successes diminish your own.

In today’s society, it can be tough to remain focused on yourself. As selfish as our culture has become, strangely enough, we still tend to care way too much about what other people think of us. We like to give off the illusion of “success” with the clothes we wear, cars we drive and homes we live in. Watches and jewelry make us feel better about the way we look. Expensive gadgets help us to keep up with our friends. We buy crap for the benefit of others. We give too many shits.

Lesson #2

This brings us to lesson number two: Reject society’s definition of success. Yet again, success is virtually unattainable if we let our culture govern its definition. Simply put, it always changes. Fashion magazines highlight the latest “hot buys” in the industry. Electronics publications give us new “must have” gadgetry that is in vogue this month. Car websites spill out the low-down on what cars the rich and famous are driving.

Money and successThe funny thing is it’s all arbitrary and based to some degree on the highest bidder. Sponsored content drives popular opinion. If we base our level of success on the well-funded marketing efforts of corporate America, the “success target” will constantly move. We will spend tons of money on stupid landfill-bound items that may have represented success…last week.

I remember back in the 90’s, Starter jackets were all the rage. You needed to have a Starter jacket or you weren’t “cool”. Somewhere down the line, Adidas seemed to take the top spot. Nike’s “Air Jordan” shoes were the shit, too. Quite honestly, I have no idea what’s in vogue today, but it’s something…something that will change next week, month or year.

Therefore, success is internal. It is derived from our lives, our thoughts and our fortunes. We make ourselves successful, not some arbitrary external force or governing body. It comes down to us.

Lesson #3

Lesson number three: Success demands context. It does not materialize from the accumulation of things. Rather, success is achieved. It begins with a goal – a personal goal. Through our own efforts of working smart and making the right decisions, we focus on achieving that goal. When we do, we become successful at those goals.

We don’t stop and call it good, though. Once a goal is achieved, do we deem ourselves, once and for all, “successful”? Is that it? Are we done? Life mastered?

The more successes we enjoy, the more successful we feel. For example, few would argue against the notion that Metallica is a highly successful band. Hanson, the one-hit-wonder boy band from the 90s, is a different story. They had a single hit, called something like “MMMBop”, that exploded onto the radio airwaves, then faded into oblivion. That song was successful, but are they?

Or, remember the Miami Dolphins’ undefeated season in 1972? They slammed through the competition in the regular season without losing a single game, then proceeded to win the Superbowl and finish the season 17-0. Miami Dolphins, highly successful football team? Maybe, maybe not…they finished at the bottom of the heap in their division last year with a record of 6-10.

Last lesson (and perhaps the best!)

Don't be's only a banana.

Don’t be deceived…it’s only a banana.

This leads us to our last lesson, which is perhaps the most important: Success is utter bullshit. Make no mistake about it – achieving our goals is a wonderful thing, but who’s to say whether or not we are “successful”? Our society? Our friends? When we worry about whether or not we’re “successful”, we lose focus. We make dumb choices. We let ourselves buy certain things and act in a particular way because of that presumed success.

What if the whole concept of success is pure nonsense? What if “success” was cleverly designed to divide us up into groups based on superficial accomplishments, where possessing certain items or doing certain things qualifies us for membership into those groups.

Perhaps our nation’s clever marketing departments hold the key to this definition by driving public opinion and assembling the components of fame and fortune into an easily-digestible package that virtually anyone can simply buy – success or not?

Wouldn’t that be interesting…buying success? Write a few checks and you’re suddenly “in the club”? How easy would that be?

Too easy.

The true secret to becoming one successful mofo: Don’t worry about “success”. Who cares? Instead, focus on your goals. Your life. Your accomplishments. Because in the end, that’s what truly matters in your life. You.

Not me. Not society. Just you.

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18 responses to “The secret to becoming a successful mofo”

  1. I’ve come to appreciate your point on rejecting society’s definition of success. My goals and life mission are defined by me and I will ultimately be the one who can judge whether I was successful or not. And what matters most to me is how successful I feel and my close family and friends around me.

    Life is filled with success and failures though. It’s important to keep perspective on which things in life are priorities and to strive for success in those areas first and foremost. For me, I want to be a successful family man and contributor at work; I don’t want to let down my family or people around me at work.

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Green Swan, I think you’ve got exactly the right attitude about this. Success should be a personal thing, not something that’s decided on by arbitrary definitions in society. And your priorities of supporting your family and friends is absolutely admirable!

  2. So true Steve – and I loved the line about our culture becoming so selfish, yet worried about what everyone thinks! So many people seem obsessed with competing with each other to look better and do better and get better things. It takes work to step away and focus on yourself and your goals and you. Only you can define success – but you have to take ownership of that too.

    • I’m sure as an educator and parent you deal (worried about what everyone thinks) with this often. I know it has come up over time with my three children. Social media puts it right in your face for everyone to see.

      • Vicki says:

        Definitely Brian! Luckily my daughter just was never into the social media thing. My son is but seems to have risen above a lot of the “one upping” this last year. He understands money much better now (after having a job!) – so that has helped!

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Vicki. It’s strange, isn’t it? We’re generally an incredibly selfish society, but yet we still care so much about what other people think of us. You said it best – taking ownership over your own success is what makes us successful.

  3. Every so often I don’t self thinking back to high school and the voting of most likely to succeed. These days it really makes me wonder what is success and can I say I’ve achieved it. I find myself defining it in my head like you do in your last paragraph. My goals and only my goals define my success. Otherwise they don’t make sense in the context of my life.

    • Steve says:

      I’ve always found those high school questions curious. Most likely to succeed? Based on what? And what defines success? I guess it was just a fun little game to play, but it struck me as pretty disingenuous, too.

      “My goals and only my goals define my success. Otherwise they donโ€™t make sense in the context of my life.” – Well said!

  4. Success is full of arbitrary markers, isn’t it? Now that I’m back in grad classes (again…sigh), I realize how motivated I am by grades. Which is entirely absurd. The concept of success is definitely something that we construct ourselves or let society construct for us. I definitely need to always remind myself of lesson one!

    • Steve says:

      Thanks Penny. It’s easy to be motivated by grades. I was too when I got into college, but graduating Summa Cum Laude or otherwise, life after college is just the same. That’s probably a good thing, too. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. lady 6415 says:

    Great blog you have here. Its inspirational. Ive been reading your post for over a year and this is my first comment.This is exactly what I needed to hear at this precise moment. I am winding down in my career. Actually I have about 941 days until I am able to retire at 55 with a government pension and several paid rental properties under my belt. I was just questioning myself and whether or not I am successful enough compared to friends and family who have become doctors, lawyers, executives etc. You are correct in your statement “because in the end, thats what truly matters in your life. YOU….” Just me.

    • Steve says:

      Thanks so much for your comment! Thanks for your readership, too – I’m humbled. 941 days, huh? But who’s counting, right? ๐Ÿ™‚

      When we compare ourselves to others, we NEVER win. Ever. It’s impossible, but we’ll always find people supposedly “better” than us. But it’s just not true. Nobody is better. We are just different. Differences are what make the world go round, I tell you! ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Well said Steve! And as a man who has been happily married for almost 20 years, I can proudly say that I do not let society dictate what success looks like for me, I let me wife do it! Ha ha!

    Actually, it’s all about being deliberate in your goals, your actions and what you define success to be, right? If you just bump along with everyone else, you’ll end up in a bad place. It’s much more difficult to do than you might think, as I don’t think most folks are used to thinking for themselves to that degree.

    Once you find a spouse/partner and you are both on the same page, the rest is easy!

    • Steve says:

      Good on you, Jon! Definitely sounds like you understand exactly what makes you tick and have your priorities straight. Oh, and this: “Once you find a spouse/partner and you are both on the same page, the rest is easy!”

      So that!

  7. Where do assholes end and successful people begin? Hard to say.

    I’ve met my fair share of “successful” people who trod on others to achieve their success. I didn’t like that version of success, but it seemed to be the most common form.

    So I gave up on the word “success”. I don’t use it anymore. Despite my financial independence I don’t consider myself a “success” at all. The word is too charged with images of fancy cars, big houses, and cocktail parties.

    No thanks, I’ll pass on that word. Other things are more important than this so called “success”

    • Steve says:

      Good question, Mr. Tako. That line is very, very fine indeed. And you’re right, it is too charged with the possession of stuff…expensive stuff. It’s sad.

  8. Jef Miles says:

    Man we need more s#%t out there like this! ๐Ÿ™‚
    It’s great to see people talking about not comparing yourself to others when it comes to success and life in general etc

    I must say it’s damn tough in some respects not to although it’s about a process I suppose rather than accepting that it will happen straight away

    • Steve says:

      Thanks for your comment, Jef! I agree, it is definitely about a process, and it will come easier to some of us than to others. For me, I found it was a snowball…tough to get going, but once a little moment was gained, it became much, much easier.

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