Character Digital entrepreneur Entrepreneurship Perspective

What’s Your Definition of Success?

Definition of success

success |səkˈses| – noun – the accomplishment of an aim or purpose

And while this definition seems to be so simplistic in this current form, I believe success has a much deeper level of understanding. It’s unique to the individual measuring it.

Over the years my personal definition of success has evolved considerably and for the first time in my life I feel like I’ve finally cracked the code.

After some much needed ongoing reflection, here’s what I’ve discovered.

Let’s Look at the Word ‘Success’

This particular definition carries no bias as to what the accomplishment is, it’s simply the “accomplishment of an aim or purpose”.

In other words, if your aim is to get a blister on your left pinky, you could achieve “success” in this goal by turning on the stove and touching it.

If your goal is to have a million dollars in your bank account, robbing a bank is one way to successfully achieve that goal.

Another way would be to start a profitable business and earn it and so on…

I have come to realize that success is not what society suggests it is, nor can it look the same to every individual. Rather, it looks exactly how you choose to define it.

And once you’ve defined your personal definition of success, achieving that is success up to you.

From a business and lifestyle perspective, the definition of success that I now have, after 10 years as an entrepreneur, is a lot different than it was when I first started out.

The things that drive me and motivate me are completely different than they were in 2004. Today, my definition of success is pretty darn simple. It’s happiness. To me, this is everything.

Once I set my ‘aim and purpose’ in life to be happy, nothing more, nothing less I was faced with the biggest challenge of my life: To figure out what makes me happy.

To me, success no longer has anything to do with anything external; it has nothing to do with image, status, or money. It also has nothing to do with being accepted, but everything to do with self acceptance.

Success to me is the feeling of self-love and connectedness with friends.

So, here’s how success has evolved with me throughout the past 12 years.

2004 to 2007: Financial Security + Image

My primary definition of success was money. The close second was image.

I wanted to prove that I was someone/something. I wanted a lot of money and I wanted it fast. I also wanted to look good doing it.

Insecure of not having a proper education, my motive was to go to school in order to get an MBA in order to get my ‘dream job’, which would then give me the inner confidence I craved and the happiness that would come with that.

I set a monetary goal of $1m by age 30 and easily eclipsed that goal. But, there was only one problem . . . once this particular definition of success was achieved, I still felt empty inside.

And, to make it worse, the motivation and drive to keep making the money was gone. Having moved to NYC in 2007, I now had a very expensive lifestyle to maintain without having the passion to continue to do the things that I had been doing.

I became disenchanted, bored, and quite miserable. I also realized that I actually felt less financially secure than when I had nothing. I had shifted into loss aversion mode and there was no longer any fulfillment in my work.

2007 to 2009:  Financial security + Image + Fulfillment

By 2007 I had achieved what I thought was success and I didn’t like that either.

Even worse, I liked myself less than before. I was living on savings and basically had a few months left before I would have to figure out my next business venture.

One day as I laid in the grass at the park in Kansas City (where I was currently living) watching the clouds lazily drift along, I had a thought cross my mind. Before the thought was complete, I was sprinting across the grass to my car.

I was wild with excitement and I knew what I wanted. The aim would be to see if I could take my homemade blueprint for making money online and teach it to others. The purpose was simple . . .

I would duplicate myself and “make 100 millionaires.”

This would then not only satisfy my craving for validation and image but also give me a sense of purpose and fulfillment. I launched a business called Carbon Copy Pro.

Basically, it was a micro-franchise internet marketing business of sorts. I called it the BiB, which is short for business in a box.

You could get a literal ‘carbon copy’ of my affiliate marketing business and virtually eliminate years of work and millions of dollars in development for a few hundred bucks and $149 a month membership fee. This would allow me to achieve all 3 of my definitions of what success is.

  1. Financial security would come in the form of recurring income instead of constantly having to chase the dollar.
  2. Creating success in others would make me look good
  3. I would feel good in the process; fulfillment

By 2009 I was living the dream. I had students and customers in 213 countries and territories.

Our FedEx bill alone was $10K per week shipping BiBs to every corner of the globe. My business had been exploding and I had more money than I knew what to do with.

I was paying close to $100k in taxes per quarter, happily. I wrote a book, started a film production company, and premiered at film at Cannes. Yep, I was at the red carpet rubbing shoulders with the likes of Dennis Hopper and Ethan Hawke (both featured in my first film Chelsea on the Rocks.)

But, there was still something missing. Again, there there was minimal fulfillment in my work and I was bored.

I was disenchanted with film and hated everyone. I felt like the hamster wheel had grown into a massive ferris wheel with all of these people dependent on me. It was scary. There was a lot of pressure, a lot of it.

I had achieved what I thought would make me happy and the scariest thing was to realize that once I got there, I felt no better. I felt worse. My need for validation and incessant need to be needed had created a burden I could no longer carry.

Inside I was miserable, anxious, scared and feeling alone. On the outside I was living the dream. My personal brand gave me a carefully crafted outward image and I thought I was God’s gift to the world. I was so humble that I was actually proud of it.

For years, I remember thinking to myself, “who cares about happiness.” I was so obsessed with success and survival that I had no time for the touchy, feely stuff.

“I’ll worry about being happy when I’m retired.”

Now, all of a sudden, I wanted to feel purpose. I wanted to be happy. I wanted to feel successful because being successful wasn’t enough.

2009 to 2010: Financial Security + Image + Fulfillment + Purpose

In the spring of 2009 I watched this TEDx talk by Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why.

I was fascinated with his message and was just beginning to realize that the missing piece of the puzzle for me was purpose.

Having a purpose, in addition to all of the other things I wanted seemed fitting. No amount of money or fame was making me feel better inside and I became fascinated with finding my purpose.

Little did I know what I was getting myself into. I had a hunch, but I didn’t care. I was craving this feeling so bad that nothing was going to stand in my way.

I contacted Simon and we started discussing a way to work together. We took his book and created an interactive eLearning course based on his book.

We went into the studio to film the course and over a three day period we filmed Simon taking me  through is why discovery process.

By the end of the three days, my ‘why’, or purpose was clear.

When it finally clicked, my body responded with a visceral response unlike anything I had had in years.

Goosebumps and invigoration – inspiration, clarity and purpose all flooded over me. It was like the moment in the park back in KC in the summer of 2007. I was back on track.

I launched a new entrepreneurial education and empowerment company called PRO U with the mission of truly helping others understand the digital universe and how it affects people’s ability to do business and interact with each other globally.

I then sought out other business and thought leaders to partner with.

The next big deal was with David Bach, the author of The Automatic Millionaire and 9 other NY Times best-sellers.

I licensed the Automatic Millionaire Trademark from him and towards the end of 2010 launched an educational ‘save yourself rich’ product line November 2010.

But then, on Dec 21, 2010 my mom, who had been battling a recurrence of cancer passed away.

I had spent quite a bit of time with her in her final days and the pain of watching her body shut down was tortuous.

Unable to bear the sight of her bed-ridden body, literally dying a little bit more every day, I did what I do best. I switched into caregiver mode.

After speaking with her doctor and getting a clear understanding of what to expect, I switched off my emotions and took charge. My biggest concern was that she she would get to pass in dignity.

She did.

I learned a lot about myself through this time of my life. True success wouldn’t be about the things we acquire, but the people we touch while we’re alive; Contributing to this world in a way that feels right for my soul and aligns it with happiness.

2010 to 2016: In Search of Happiness + Finally Happy

I went to work on me. I took reflective steps back to see who was in my life, where I was heading, who I was doing it with and what vision did I have for myself.

What I found is that I needed to pivot. I needed to make all the right changes for myself in order to have longer lasting affects on others.

This involved me getting rid of those that no longer served me and adding those that did.

I had to be clear about what it is that I truly want and desire and I finally am.

I’ve since created several businesses that not only serve others, but help them understand the importance of being happy in the process; the ultimate freedom.

I’ve partnered with incredible people and continue to collaborate with those that share similar values, goals and ideas that change the world.

I’m fortunate to have complimentary players in my life; family, friends, colleagues and peers from around the world.

I found my purpose, but more importantly, I found happiness and it’s the mother of all success for me.