There are fewer things more obscure than the idea of success. We all want it, some of us have it and others aren’t even sure what success looks like. The issue is, no one really knows what it looks like. Success is subjective, and some people might feel successful after starting their own small business, while others need to make it to the C-suite before they consider themselves worthy of that word.
Growing up, many of us learn about success in school. If you received great grades, you were successful. If you didn’t make it on the soccer team, you weren’t successful. We were also taught the concept and what it’s supposed to mean by parents, professors, coaches and peers.
With all due respect, there are a few things that probably got skewed while you were soaking up the info. Here are 6 myths about success that aren’t worth believing.
1. Failure Is The End
Throughout elementary school and through college, I remember being told that failure is the end all be all. An F in a class meant you weren’t smart, and that you’d never make it to or through college. Messing up a project was a sign that you weren’t really destined for greatness. And misunderstanding or feeling confused in a class meant you were passionate, but that it was probably time to switch career paths.
I’m here to give one big LOL to all of that. Thankfully, through internships, jobs and some fabulous mentors, I was personally able to discover that failure is essential to success. This isn’t an excuse to throw your hands up and expect the world to figure it out for you, but failure will certainly help you achieve your goals.
Imagine if everything went right in life. First of all, that would be insanely boring, and, second of all, you would never learn anything. The key of excelling in what you do comes from learning and making connections after failure. Job rejections, crappy job interviews, sub par projects and getting fired all really suck, yes. But you will have plenty of important takeaways after it happens. Failure isn’t the end, it’s the beginning to a lot of kick ass stuff.
2. Money Won’t Make You Happy
Every time I hear this I want to give a major eye roll. It often comes from the mouths of people who have been there, done that. The ones who have, basically, done what they’ve wanted to with their lives, and have money. While money doesn’t necessarily equate to happiness, it sure helps make life easier and allows you to enjoy things that you really love.
Rent, bills and groceries can’t pay for themselves. On top of this, not having enough money adds painful stress for a lot of people. I can guarantee that, if the people who say money can’t make you happy were being paid minimum wage and trying to make it on their own, having a little extra dough would certainly boost their mood. Money isn’t the only source of happiness, and materialistic items aren’t the only result of success. There’s certainly no doubt that money contributes to happiness and quality of life.
3. Practicality Should Come Before Passion
Ah, such an age old debate. The artist just wants to be an artist, but the parents want him or her to be a doctor. The writer is given the “I told you so” lecture for choosing an “unstable” career. Friends can’t understand why one friend wants to start a business with no prior corporate experience. There are way too many scenarios where this mindset comes into play. As a disclaimer, you definitely want to be able to afford a place to stay, food and the chance to live comfortably. Doing what you love won’t be fun if you’re in constant panic or a state of worry about where your next meal will be coming from. But, this doesn’t mean that what some consider “practical” careers should be prioritized over your passions.
While you may need to start in a job that you’re not too crazy about, it’s only temporary, and with the right attitude and amount of motivation, you can do what you love for a living.
While a lot of creative careers or jobs with less structure are seen as being unreliable and unfit for providing money, there are too many people who have become successful in those fields for that assumption to be true. Picking something simply for the salary range isn’t going to feel so hot down the road. It will most likely be hard to start. You might not have the support that you need right off the bat, but it’s far from impossible.
4. You’re Too Far Behind To Catch Up To Success
Most of us have had that feeling of inferiority after seeing some news story about a kid who started his own business at an early age. Or the 14-year-old who already has a singing career and 1.2 million followers on Instagram. Lucky for you, success doesn’t have an age limit.
You might have been lucky enough to inherit billions of dollars from a long lost great uncle and can fulfill your dreams before you’re 18. Or, you could be like most of us, who just have to work hard towards it. Whether you’re 50 or 20, you really can’t fall behind. We all move at our own pace, and in the wise words of some motivational speaker whom I can’t recall, “swim in your own lane.” It’s a motivating point that you can use to push yourself and lessen that feeling of “this is a lost cause.” You’re never too old (or young, I suppose) to reach success.
5. Stay Away From Risky Decisions
This is similar to the failure misconception. Without risks, how can anything exciting happen? If some of the most successful business women and men didn’t take risks, we wouldn’t have phones, electric cars, high tech skincare and health breakthroughs, or even the cool shoes we obsess over. You typically have way more than a 50/50 chance with the risks you take, because, when it comes to careers, they’re calculated, meticulously planned out and well-researched.
Those crazy ideas you have won’t seem so crazy after seeing your plans come to fruition. Sure, it’s much more relaxing to chill out in your comfort zone, but that’s where regrets and retrospective “what ifs?” develop — big no-nos. You’re not rappelling down a skyscraper, you’re taking a chance on something that could have an outcome more successful than you imagined. (But do stay away from behaviors that might cost you your job and your health; like rappelling down a skyscraper, that’s the only recommendation.)
6. The Definition Of Success (It’s Different For Everyone)
A quick Google search of the word comes up with this definition, “the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors; the accomplishment of one’s goals.” Not too shabby. But, right beneath it, there are quite a few articles discussing what it means. Spoiler alert: it’s all subjective. While there, obviously, has to be a dictionary definition of the word, what it means to you is very different from what it means to the next person.
Some folks find that success is being happy and living a life where they feel fulfilled, and that it has nothing to do with money, material items or a job. Others see success as achieving their dream job, being able to afford all the items in their Neiman Marcus cart or working their way to the top of the company. The best part is, no one is wrong.
You don’t have to believe that success comes from a job. You also don’t have to believe that happiness is the only way to feel successful. Hell, if you think success is opening a cattle ranch or mastering crochet patterns, you’re right, too. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. The important part is understanding that one person’s definition doesn’t have to be yours, and vice versa.
All images via Getty