What Does Success Look Like?

Success, the very word conjures up images of someone who is wealthy or famous or maybe someone who does very well in school or work. Or maybe it is someone who has a wonderful relationship with their spouse, parents or children. Or it could be someone in a combination of the above.

We live in a consumer-driven society and the culture we live in places a big emphasis on making money and defines success by how much we own. Advertising messages communicate that having certain luxury brands is the definition of success. So what makes one successful in this society? Is it hitting a specific income bracket or living in a specific zip code or driving a particular car model? But the question then arises is if success is only an outward manifestation or is it something deeper, something that is intrinsic to what is most important to us?

Every individual has their definition of success and what is important to them. While we need to do some things for the sake of earning an income, it is important to balance responsibilities with activities we enjoy doing. That means having enough free time to spend with people we love as well as time for practising self-care. For this to happen, we need to check if we can balance our lives to do what we enjoy doing and if not, what steps we can take to achieve a more balanced lifestyle.

One thing to be able to achieve that balance is to be secure and stable financially because while one need not be excessively wealthy to be happy, having a healthy bank balance will allow us to design our life in ways we want and a healthy bank balance will give financial stability that can mean success. What this means is that you need to figure out exactly how much you need to live a comfortable lifestyle and use that number to hit your financial goals.

Success is not all about what you do or don’t have. Someone who wants to live a life caring for others without being financially successful and achieves that is successful in their definition of success. Success is also not about big achievements, getting that ultimate promotion which will change all the time. Instead, think of success as small goals which are the ladders to the main big goal. These goals can be small, short-term wins which also give you the impetus to get to the larger goals.

Our definitions of success will change over time because our priorities change and what seemed important back then may become trivial now. Our values and needs evolve and with this, the definition of success will be revised and adjusted.

What is my version of success? It’s pretty simple actually. To me, I will consider myself successful if I am financially stable so that S and I can retire in peace, give my children a good upbringing and education and inculcate in them the values and character that make them excellent human beings and good citizens.

At the end of the day, success is being able to look at yourself in the mirror and feel good about the choices you’ve made. No person is without their mistakes, but you learn and grow through the process. Your version of success doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s, but it must be a definition you feel good about and that is meaningful to you. Ultimately, the way that you define success will lead you toward living a more contented life that is aligned with your values.

What is your definition of success?

What makes someone successful?


Over the past few weeks, I have been speaking to BB & GG about their future and I realised that a common refrain emerged in what I was speaking, which was being successful. So that led me think on what success means? I define success as accomplishing goals, be it small or large. Success is always doing your best, being happy and most importantly believing that you can do what you set out to achieve.

To become successful in any area of life, one should first want it. There is a saying that success only comes to those to dare, which most people don’t. Success only comes to those who are fully committed and determined that come what may, they will give their 100% to what they want to succeed in. So, what are those elusive qualities that someone who is successful has and that we, ordinary people are lacking?

Willing to fail: When one fails, one knows what it takes to succeed. And everyone fails before they succeed and so, a successful person is willing to fail to eventually succeed. The important thing, however, is to learn from each failure, which will eventually lead to better decisions in the future and persevering and not giving up at the first sign of failure.

Go the extra mile: A successful person does more than what’s asked of them. They view their job descriptions as just the beginning of what they can do with their job and once they’ve completed their mandatory tasks, they will always ask to take on more projects that challenge them including those tedious jobs that no one else wants to do in order to be a team player.

Forgive and maybe forget: Successful people learn to forgive and don’t hold on to grudges. The art of forgiveness is the art of letting go and successful people know that to forgive doesn’t mean condoning what someone has done, but rather releasing the negative emotion around it for their own peace of mind. Only then can they move past it and strive harder. On the other hand, unsuccessful people tend to hold on to grudges, causing the negative situation and energy to fester away and inevitably affect their success.

Set real goals: Successful people make achievable and attainable goals that can be accomplished. They also plan their days and even weeks with focussed goals that are aligned with their strengths while avoiding their weaknesses.

Accountability and responsibility: They are accountable for themselves and their actions and don’t rely on others to get their job done. They try to look inwards and search for solutions and own up to mistakes. They make their own luck and position themselves for success. By being slightly better each day and doing at least one thing each day that contributes to their success, they position themselves to get lucky and use that luck to grow and become better in life. They also know they are responsible for their own actions, reactions and ultimately successes and failures which creates a mindset of empowerment and control where bad outcomes direct them to a better path and lets them grow from failure.

Flexible: Those who are successful tend to be more flexible and learn to adjust themselves according to the changes happening in their lives. They are willing to reinvent themselves to stay relevant, constantly coming up with new ideas, learning new skills and searching for ways to be more productive. They don’t wait for things to happen; they make things happen.

Effective communicators: Successful people are able to communicate effectively. They are good story tellers and are persuasive and confident while doing so. They are able to negotiate well and can compile compelling tracks about themselves and their motivations. What makes them effective is that they are clear about and sensitive to the outcome they want to get from their communication and are flexible in their method of communication to achieve their outcome. They are experts at building rapport and separate what is being said from the meaning they put into what is being said.

Networks: Successful people build good networks whom they can tap into when they need answers, people or even help. They aren’t afraid of emailing or calling the best person who can help them and are always prepared with the right questions. They are, in turn, always willing to help others. They also realise that the best way to build a great network is to give help to others first with no expectation of reward. Those who constantly take without giving usually do very poorly on building a solid network.


Life-long learners: Successful people are always learning. They are life-long learners who push themselves out of their comfort zones. Successful people always remain students and are constantly learning new things and have new experiences. They aren’t afraid to try new activities and to fail at them because they know that only by failing will they learn. They are also more excited about the journey than the result because they enjoy the process.

Consistency: Successful people follow through with their habits which others say they would like to, but don’t. Success is down to consistent habits and successful people know this and stick to them. They create positive routines and take time to journal or plan out goals every day. They also have positive but consistent habits like reading, not watching too much television and use their downtime to implements positive and powerful habits which allow them to succeed.

Focus: Successful people are focussed on where they want to go, how they want to be and how to get there. They know the importance of personal growth within their journey towards success. Those who are not successful, focus on the end goal without giving much thought to how to get there. They are also more interested in what others are doing as opposed to what they should be doing instead. This is an important part of being successful in any aspect of life.

Positive Mindset: Successful people focus on the positive and have a positive mindset which propels them on the path to success. Such a state, even when facing a particular challenge, attracts more positive opportunities. It does not matter if they are not successful right now, what matters most is where they would want to go and if they are willing to work for it. Unsuccessful people on the other hand, focus on the negative which can only steer one towards failure because when one only sees the negative, they literally blind themselves from seeing answers to problems because they’re usually fixated on the problem itself and not the solution.

Attitude of gratitude: The attitude of gratitude is the secret weapon for every successful person. Whether it’s gratitude for where they are no matter what stage they’re at, for the people around them and even the challenges they face, appreciation for everything brings more things to be grateful for, and therefore success into their lives.

Embrace Change: The only constant in this world is change and those who know this and take advantage of this adage are successful. They know that change is necessary to grow in life and become successful and so they willingly embrace change because they see change as positive. Others fear change and find it hard to adapt to a changing world.

Share credit: Those who are successful in life usually share credit and don’t hog all the credit for success. Any team effort, even with the major work done by one individual is cause for the group to be credited and share in the celebration. Acknowledging the contributions of others is a common trait in successful people.

Dream big: If one aims for the stars, they will at least touch the moon. Those who are successful know this and have big dreams. Most people don’t live their dream life because they do not dare to dream big. Most of us just aim to get by in life, but if one is serious about being successful, they need to start thinking of having an extraordinary life and think big. It’s quite simple actually, if one thinks of success all the time, there is a high chance that it will be achieved. Conversely, if failure is all that is being thought about, guess what happens?

Continuously improving: A successful person knows that they have to be just slightly better today than they were yesterday and a bit better tomorrow than they were today. This puts them on a path to becoming better on a continuous basis and reach the goals they set for themselves.

Never give up: The journey to success is tough and one will go through a lot of failures and setbacks before reaching the apex. However, they never let that get to them, but have the confidence to move on and to turn failures into learning lessons. Those who are successful never quit and give up on their dreams. They hold on to their dreams and continue to work hard even when the world tells them that it is impossible.

Self-Discipline and Self-confidence: Everyone procrastinates. And everyone has a vice or two, however minor. But those who are continually successful never let distractions overtake them. Instead, they have the discipline to force themselves to keep at it, even when they feel the urge to do something less important. Confidence shouldn’t be confused with arrogance. Confidence is the belief and conviction in self. Successful people are great at this.

Time management skills: Those who are successful are able to manage their time well. They know that time can’t actually be managed, because you can only manage something that you can actually change. Instead, successful people prioritise the things that matter most, focus on those and leave the rest to be tackled on another day.

High self-esteem: Those who succeed are people who believe they deserve their success and know that they can do anything they set their mind to. They understand that a mistake is something that they do and not who they are. They also monitor the warning signs of low self-esteem to ensure they always keep a positive self-image of themselves. They realize that self-esteem is a state of mind and choosing to have high self-esteem is much more useful than choosing to have low self-esteem.

Well-rounded and balanced: Truly successful people strive to be successful in all aspects of their lives. They live healthy lives, become financially independent, nurture meaningful relationships, develop personal mastery, and accomplish their professional goals. They know that sacrificing one key area to achieve another will not help them maximise their true potential. It is hard to be your best and to contribute when you have to worry about how you are going to pay the rent.

Great listeners: Everyone wants to be a great speaker but how many people strive to be excellent listeners. People who listen succeed in life because they are able to hear and understand the needs of other people and to focus their energy on meeting those needs. The fastest way to be a good conversationalist is to listen well and ask questions.

Always prepared: Successful people are always prepared. They not only have a plan B but also a Plan C, D, E, and F. They mentally rehearse and visualise the possibilities vividly so that when the actual situation occurs, their brains will remember what to do and they are never stuck on the back foot.

So here you have it. These are some of the key elements to what makes someone successful. A mindset of gratitude, teamwork and putting more emphasis on the journey rather than the destination are all important when it comes to success.

Not a Rejection, but a Redirection

This is a scenario that has probably happened to all of us. We are desperately waiting for an answer for either a dream job or a place in the course we yearn to be in. And then there comes a call or more likely an email that dashes our hopes to the ground – a rejection letter if we are lucky. The more likely scenario is ghosting and then slowly we give up hope. We are despondent and think our world has come to an end.

Bryant McGill said Rejection is merely a redirection: a course correction to your destiny. And this is true. Failure or rejection is just a delay in our plans, a temporary detour, not the end. It may be very difficult to see it then, but that rejection is a sign from the universe that there is something better waiting. But after some time, we have to get up, dust off the rejection and the pain it caused us and continue doing what we need to do to reach our goal. Rejection teaches us that hard work and tenacity will allow us to reap the ultimate reward.

Rejection forces us to dig deep and clarify our passions. Many times, failure and loss result from a diminished passion and we realise we weren’t as passionate as we first thought. The pruning effect is positive and as we clear your plate a little, we’ll make more room for what excites us and direct our energies toward that and it is clear that focused energy is when we’re most effective.

Challenges and losses compel us to gather up our resources and develop and uncover skills we didn’t know we had. It gives that jolt of adrenalin to our system which forces us to go beyond what we thought we were capable of. A rejection keeps us in check. There will always be someone who is better than us and deserves what we were hoping to get and a rejection shows us that. It pulls us down and if we are at that point arrogant or too sure of our abilities, that’s the universe telling us no, we aren’t. The rejection then becomes a lesson for us, reminds us to be better the next time round and strive harder. With pain, comes gain and when we are all out to reach a goal, then we should be prepared for rejection, criticism and hate and with each such prick, you start to develop a thick skin, which makes future rejections easier to handle. Rejection also eliminates what doesn’t serve us and we are also allowed to reject something that is not right for us, a sort of reverse rejection.

When faced with a large failure, you see who is there for you. When you hit rock bottom, it is your family and close friends, ones who are there in thick and thin, in sadness and happiness. So you can sieve those who are genuine from the freeloaders when rejection comes calling. During rejection, we can figure out where we are lacking, especially the habits and skills we have not yet acquired which a failure reminds us to go forth and get.

We are all plagued with the superhero syndrome and this becomes harmful when the candle is burning at both ends, drifting toward burnout. It is only when faced with rejection, that you start to learn to ask for help and then realise that asking for help is not a weakness but can be viewed in a positive light.

When we are rejected, we usually go back to the drawing board to take stock and reevaluate what went wrong. This is something that we need to do regularly, but when faced with success, we rarely do that, it’s only failure that compels us to rethink options and who knows the rethink may set us on a new path, something we had not considered previously.

Lastly, when we are rejected, our successes become sweeter. Value and meaning become heightened in the face of difficulty with the greatest celebrations coming from the toughest battles. When the journey to get to the peak includes getting back on our feet and dusting ourselves off, we’ll be more inclined to stop when we see roses and express a little more gratitude at the finish line.

When we are rejected or we are subject to failures, at that moment, we are so hurt and dejected that it is impossible to see past it. In retrospect, in many cases, failure would be the best thing that could have happened to us. Failure and rejection are what keeps us hungry, motivated, and allows us to shoot for the stars by bettering ourselves for the next opportunity that comes along. In short, the bitterness of every failure adds sweetness to every victory.

The world tomorrow

Somewhere in the world today, we will welcome the seventh billionth person into this world. We’ve added one billion people in the world in just about a decade! According to a United Nations estimate, there are about 2 babies being born every second and we will be adding another 3 billion babies, reaching the world population figure of 10 billion by 2100, that’s just 89 years away!

The world is seeing a huge variance in terms of population growth, first world countries do not have enough and third world countries have too much! This means that in the very near future (if it is not already happening), you will see a lot of movement of population from the less developed countries to the more developed ones. This will lead to other problems like integration, resentment from the established to the newly arriving etc.

So this is a new thing for parents to worry about – as if we have less things to worry about already. With the world’s population reaching stratospheric heights, it is inevitable that the levels of competition for literally everything will increase proportionally.  Everyone will be chasing after the same pie and it’s going to be a free for all, unless you have the resources to beat the competition. One of the best ways to succeed in life is through education and guess what, that’s going to be the one place with the fiercest competition.

Children in Singapore, which is a first world country in a third world region, are already pretty complacent, even though we’ve always had competition, not just from the region, but also from India and China, but the competition facing our children, 10-15 years down the line will mean facing people who are hungry for success not just from the above mentioned countries, but also from Africa and the rest of the world.

What does this mean to us as parents? In my opinion, this means giving our children the best we can – in terms of education, experiences, knowledge and learning and making them the best we can with the strongest values and foundations so that they can make their own way in the world that they are being dealt with as the kind of adults who will make us proud to be called their parents.

My only hope is that 10-15 years down the line, GG & BB grow up to be adults I can be proud of – articulate, helpful, intelligent, loving people who are a success in whatever they choose to do and be in life!