Why “Success” isn’t a Long-Term Goal

I had a fun discussion recently with a person who let me know, in very clear terms, that he disagreed with my advice in Be the Master to “Define Your Success.” “Success,” he told me, “is just a long term goal, and those blind you to near-term opportunities.” Obviously, I have a slightly different take on it.

As defined in Be the Master, isn’t a set of long-term goals. Your Success, as defined in the book, is a description of a place you want to get to and then remain at. I suppose you can think of the “get to” part as a goal, but I tend to think of goals as intermediate points. Your Success is your destination.

And your Success will change over time. That’s why I’ve always advised writing in pencil. Simply having long-term metrics for success doesn’t automatically make you blind; you still need to be in your life, and aware of what’s happening. As the situation on the ground changes, you may decide that what you once considered “successful” no longer is, so you erase and revise.

In between today and your success are a whole series of goals you should set for yourself. Frankly, I set my goals for whatever I think the next step is. Once I reach it, I figure out the next one. I’m not trying to plan my life down to the nth degree with some kind of 20 year master plan! I work for the next bit, I pay attention to what’s around me, and I pivot when the situation calls for it.

If you’re doing it right, your success definition will come at close to retirement age – whatever that is for you. Your success represents a successful life, not just a career goal you’ve set for yourself. When you define your success, you think big, and you think about what your entire life should lead to.

Yes, you’ll have goals. Yes, they should lead you to that destination I’m calling “success” (ask my why I chose the term “success,” sometime, in fact). And yes, they’ll all shift over time as life goes on. That’s fine. But defining that destination – even if it’ll change later – is the first step.

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