Seeing Differently: Redefining Success

Success is the impact the people you touch and serve have on others. It is about cascading impact through uplifting and igniting belief and purposeful action in service to and with others to create better together.

That is how I see true success.  How do you define success?  What does success look like for you personally?  Professionally?  In life?

As I reflect on my definition of success, I realize definitions of success can be situational and as unique as each of us is as human beings. At a networking event, one person may want to meet 100 people. Another may want to leave the event with 50 business cards.  Yet another might want to come away with 10 client prospects. My goal might be to connect with and have meaningful conversations with 5 people as the start of building genuine relationships and exploring possibilities. There is no inherent right or wrong, just different perspectives, in how we see success in this situation. This clarity on how we see success defines our approach and informs how we create our conditions to realize success.

Wait, what about ROI, the bottom line, productivity, hitting your numbers, and winning? Business is about results you may challenge. How can we be successful if we invest our time and money connecting, caring about employees, building and maintaining relationship and all this people first stuff?

I would respond, “How can you consistently create greater, sustainable success if you do not?”. How are you defining results and winning?  What criteria are you placing on results?  Who is it you expect to get these results?  How are you, as their leader, enabling their success?  What is missing from your perspective that might invite greater success?

Here are some perspectives on success to consider:

Thomas Watson Jr, Chairman and CEO of IBM on success in business:

To be successful, you have to have your heart in your business, and your business in your heart.

Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich on success:

Most great people have attained their greatest success one step beyond their greatest failure.

Mike Vacanti, author of Believership: The Superpower Beyond Leadership shares:

Meeting the chaotic challenges we are facing today requires big shifts in the way we organize, lead and manage people and teams. Believership will last beyond the accelerated attainment of goals and objectives, people will find meaning and happiness. It is not only what we accomplish but who we become along the journey. The only thing that gets in the way of extraordinary transformation is the belief that it can’t be done.

Watson speaks of the importance of heart. Hill on how great people have perseverance, tenacity, and determination. Vacanti speaks about belief, the journey and “who we become along the way”.  Wonderful, insightful wisdom shared by all three. This notion of who we become along the way particularly resonates with me.

Success is personal, situational and a journey of becoming.  Success is the outcome of the choices you make, the actions you take and the conditions you create to invite and unleash the human greatness in people, teams, workplaces, communities, families, and relationships of all kinds. Success is deliciously nuanced, especially as we look at human beings, human development, team development and how we create the conditions for us all to flourish individually, in teams, and in business.

An expansive view of success invites courage.  Courage to dance with and navigate uncertainty. Courage to simultaneously look at the long-term mission, vision, and purpose, as we concurrently and skillfully focus on executing the prioritized work for today, aligned with that shared purpose.

Success does not just happen, you must create the conditions for it. Success, much like leadership, is intentional, contextual and active, resulting in growth. Inherent in success is creating movement forward, progress, achieving better. For many, success is often about the end results regardless of how those outcomes were created.  You may hear a former boss’ voice echoing in your head, uttering these frequently used words, “Just get it done.” Perhaps, followed by “I don’t care what it takes.”

The score defines success. You either won or your lost. You got it done or you did not. You succeeded or you failed.

What if our view of success was not so binary?  What if our assessment of success was more than the end result?  What if our lens on success was more expansive?  What if we also valued how this success was achieved, the learning that could be shared and applied to future efforts, thereby expanding human capacity and leadership pipelines through these investments in practical experiences?

The invitation I extend to each of us as human beings is to reflect on your definition of success with curiosity and an open mind. Success is sometimes a step, sometimes a sprint and often a journey of failure, learning, and micro-successes. Sometimes success is personal, as when you get an “A” on your math test or beat your personal best time in the half-marathon.  Even then we have teachers, coaches and perhaps running partners who support us along the journey.

Most often, success involves more than just you and is a collection of interconnected contributions and successes that deliver results for your clients, your teammates and your community.  Success is the realized convergence of your choices, practices, habits, values, and actions.

Now, more than ever, for our planet, our global humanity, our communities, and our families, true success lies in creating sustainable, progressive, cascading and amplified impact. True success is interdependent, interconnected and creates better not just for those we serve, but for those they serve.

What does the next ripple of impact look like for you?


Brian Kelly
Brian Kelly
Brian Kelly is a visionary connector, community-builder and human development specialist who helps people and teams unleash their human greatness so they can create better together. Brian believes in each person’s unique human greatness and the power of harnessing this to amplify impact for teams, communities, and organizations. Brian is an ICF Accredited Coach whose three-decade career spans business, technology, finance, and human development. He is co-author of the book Becoming You to be released later this year. Brian’s encouraging energy and relational and strategic approach invite the inclusive business leaders and teams he works with to expand their perspective to strengthen their belief and their ability to create better together. Brian works with clients to understand the conditions that create greater contributions, fulfillment, and success and then works with them, using proven frameworks, to help them create those conditions through the lens of their strengths. The results are greater self-awareness, confidence, connection, teamwork, creativity and innovation producing better human and business results. Brian is the host of the We Can Do Better Conversations series, which invite inclusive conversations on topics relevant to bringing greater humanity to our workplaces, communities, families, and relationships. Brian serves on the Executive Board for Overcoming Odds where he helped the Executive Director with board development, strategic business planning and expanding the reach and impact of the nonprofit’s mission. Brian has also served on the Washington DC metro area chapter Board for several culturally-based National nonprofits focused on professional and leadership development.

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  1. One of the great models in life, the late Coach John Wooden, defined success as follows: “Success is an attitude. Success requires maximum effort. It is peace of mind and a state of mind. And please note the emphasis on “self”… in self-satisfaction. Your success should never be determined by the approval or recognition of others. If so, you’ll live a highly disappointing life. …

  2. This is such good stuff, Brian! Albert Einstein was quoted as saying, “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” He also said that one’s value is defined by what he gives not in what he receives.

    And Brian Kelly said, “Now, more than ever, for our planet, our global humanity, our communities, and our families, true success lies in creating sustainable, progressive, cascading and amplified impact. True success is interdependent, interconnected and creates better not just for those we serve, but for those they serve.”

    That’s the nugget!! Thank you!

    • Thank you, Melissa! Love the Einstein references and grateful for your thoughtful, uplifting comment!

  3. Thank you for this meaningful article, Brian. I will forever love Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote about success. For me I focus on living a fulfilled life on purpose. Success often dances with failure. I believe both are important and can be transcended as we realize that our lives flow from one experience to the next. If we are taking love inspired actions for ourselves and other people we are most likely living in alignment with our hearts, our values, and our reason for being on the planet. Bravely living true to our many gifts, skills, and talents we can continue to create and contribute to the quality of people’s lives.

    Here’s Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote that I love so much!
    “To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition, to know even one life has breathed easier because you lived. This is to have succeeded.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

    I especially appreciate the last part-to know even one life breathed easier because you lived. Most people want to be seen, heard, valued, and appreciated. If I can offer that from a non-judgmental, loving, present with rapt attention place, then simply wow. Every moment of life becomes rich with blessings.

    • Thank you, Laura for your thoughtful share. Love the Emerson quote you shared. Such a wonderful perspective on success!

  4. Brian 333333333! So this is my hilarious excited enthusiastic shout!

    I can start by saying I failed myself again today! I like to save all my notifications content and engage chronologically; cauz this is what my principles Center is saying: fairness and treating everybody the same way!

    I need to confess that, from time to time, when I know there will be no generated hurt since nobody is forcing me to engage anyway in the first place, I can let my heart go wherever it decides to go, and I was so well served today from the very first sentence 💙

    I’ve been talking a lot already about the servant leadership in general life context which takes tons of EI – the one fueled by the principles not by a distorted Center and used in manipulating people… So I’m gonna leave this for another time!

    I just wanna share some story with you about the networking events:

    I was invited to India to give a talk last February. It was a HUGE 3-day event! Each day, there were 5 talks each 30 minutes!

    So during the first ceremony I was late cauz I had such an exhausting 22-hour-trip. I didn’t sleep the whole night and needed to take some rest cauz I had to deliver my speech the following day. I had a quick chat with the coordinator and Went directly to the buffet. Yasss I was starving 🤤 There was a guy. He approached me, pushed my passion button and I started talking, and talking… and talking 🤭😁🙈 and the guy was listening and just interrupted me for a sec to say: “you need to know that I’m the talker in general and that I can rarely listen to someone for more than 1 min”. That was moving 🤩 Many were observing the scene and joined our table! They asked me for my card, to which I answered:

    “Awww I don’t have any. I am my card. If I succeeded in building a rapport, you would not need it to remember me 🌞”

    Because I’ll need pages to write about the whole event 🤭, I will just add a last note:

    I ate all my meals cold and the sentence I heard the most was “Please eat; I’m sorry I triggered your passion in any way!” 😂🙈