How do you know when you’re at the cusp of success in your life and career?

How do you know when you’re at the cusp of success in your life and career?

The Harvard MBA Says:

I’m tempted to quote Potter Stewart on hard-core pornography: “I know it when I see it.”  The problem is, most people don’t know success when they see it.  Thanks to the hedonic treadmill, even those who achieve unquestioned success often feel that it isn’t enough.  The NBA Finals currently feature Kobe Bryant, a star basketball player who has won three championships, is acknowledged by his peers to be the best player in the world, and recently received his first MVP award.  Yet I doubt he’ll consider himself a success unless he exceeds Michael Jordan’s six championship rings.

More relevant to most of us, I’ve spoken to many retired HBS alumni who have observed both the course of their own lives, as well as those of classmates.  Most of those who went to Wall Street to make $10 million succeeded; yet when they finally made their number, it didn’t feel like “success.”

I’ll suggest a different measurement for success in your life and career.  If you can design a life for yourself where you are happy, and where your work regularly helps you reach a state of flow, you are successful.

To help determine when you are on the cusp of success, track your happiness.  Ask yourself each week, “Am I happy?  Is my work fulfilling?” (I generally recommend using a 5 point scale).  The process should be a continuous one, and achieving “success” will be a function of gradual and incremental improvement.

One Comment

  1. Thais
    Posted June 24, 2008 at 1:01 am | Permalink

    Hey Chris! I totally agree with this post! Sometimes we forget that we are supose to have a life right now… and not in the future or in a future success that we really don’t know what is it.
    I also enjoy so much your blog, I’m from Brazil and many of the question posted here are the same that I have.
    Soon I’ll send you my question too! =)

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