Freshmen Speak: What is success?


I teach a class called Strategies for Success. It is a college success class, but I tend to think success can’t be compartmentalized into subjects. There are some universal truths about success. I took the class on a journey of defining success yesterday. At first they gave me words like, “money, happiness, a house, admiration!” One student even said, “A dog!” Everyone laughed when I agreed (because of my little boy Henry.)

What was interesting was that when I asked them to come up with a definition in smaller groups, they excluded all of the discriptors they came up with and decided on rather vague answer like: “Its what you make of it, meeting your own goals, never giving up.” They decided that success was a personal definition for each person.

One of the big struggles that emerged was that as 18 year old college students, they were often towards meeting their own ideas of success and the requirements of outside forces, specifically: Family. We discussed the difference between success as measured by outside metrics and success as defined by self.

We discovered that some people are very successful according to the standards of society, but don’t feel very successful. Other people are happy with their own achievements, but don’t meet any extrordinairy standards externally. Which are you?

We even talked about the “destination” of success. I posed this as a question in which I was seeking advice. I said, “I’m successful by many standards, but feel like there is so much I want to do. How do I balance this struggle?” Several students had earnest pieces of advice for me: “Appreciate where you are now, but keep working for your goals”, said one. They basically told me I could feel successsful now and still work on it. The exception is the one student who said we only really know if we are successful once we are dead when we look back and decide.

How do you define success? According to external rules and labels or by internal metrics? Do you care what people think? (Of course you do!) But what is really more important? When is success determined? At the end of life, at the end of the day, after each decision, every moment?

My favorite answer came from a young lady in the back. “The only way you can fail is if you stop trying.” That is a great definition of success.  What do you think?

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About achievemoore

Jimmy Moore is a unique, entertaining and truly life-changing professional speaker. But this wasn't always the case! After the loss of his father to suicide, ten-year-old Jimmy was so shy and insecure that he would begin to shake uncontrollably at the thought of getting up in front of people. Later, finding incredible power and comfort in the theater, he knew he must find a way to be on that stage. Jimmy combines his own life experiences and passions for education and inspiration through performance to effectively move audiences to a new level of personal motivation, professional proficiency, and achievement. Being orphaned at age 16, dealing with addiction, and literally running for his life in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Jimmy has a tale unlike many others. Being faced with great tragedy and triumph, Jimmy's passion for motivating and inspiring others to reach and surpass their potential has become his personal mission. With a portfolio that includes: a Bachelors in communication, a Masters in Higher Education Administration, and professional experience as an actor in New York City, a top sales associate, a personal success teacher, and a university administrator, Jimmy sends the message of his story and life's lessons in a knowledgeable and powerful way. He is recognized by professionals around the country as a powerful speaker with a unique talent.
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3 Responses to Freshmen Speak: What is success?

  1. KWKnight says:

    Thank you for using us as inspiration Jimmy. lol. I'm actually working on a Goal Board. At least I think that is what is was called. Honestly I think that lesson helped me more than any of the other lessons so far. Obviously the note-taking chapter is helping me in my other classes, but success is definitely something I needed to define for me, and you really helped with that. Thanks.Claire D-H

  2. Jessica says:

    I find this very interesting considering each of us have our own definition of success. Success to me is when you reach the goals that you have set for yourself. Most teenagers don't realize that even though society has this image of success as being rich and dressing nice the best success you can have is by proving someone wrong who told you that you would never amount to anything. So i really like your blog its very insightful

  3. Sara Burgan says:

    This was my favorite conversation that we had in class. This and the interview made me realize that success wasn't solely in academics but it was about everything. One thing I learned in my interview was that happiness is success. Also, the ending quote is very true and every time I want to give up, I think of it: "never never never give up", because like someone in our class stated: Failing is giving up. -Sara Burgan

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