What is Success?

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A random message from the LinkedIn UK Team asked the question “what does success mean to me?” and it made me think.

Spending my working life focusing on developing others can sometimes mean I don’t ask the same questions of myself, so I decided to question my own beliefs and ideas about success.

In truth when I look back I have always followed the traditional route for success in terms of bank balance, and materialistic things. However almost becoming bankrupt in 2011, I realised that working long hours to earn money which you then spend on entertaining other people is a very superficial sort of success. It focuses on other people’s opinions of me and my success and their admiration, judgement and enjoyment, and when the money goes… so do they.

So its not about money, or cars or nice things.

Success to me is being truly happy, every morning. I am now so lucky; I wake up before my alarm clock every day at 5.30am and look forward to the day. I still work ridiculously long hours, and I travel every week, but I love my work. The journey here has been long and painful both physically and mentally, but I don’t think you can be successful if you don’t have to work at it.

There have been two defining moments for me, one meeting my mentor Jim Graves, and two having a difficult conversation with my business partner about our future. Both moments stick in my memory because they were times when I had to make difficult choices, and those choices guided my path to where I am today.

Jim, sat with me in 2001 when I was recovering from a major injury. I had stupidly damaged my back in a wake boarding accident and was in incredible pain and emotionally drained. I’d had a major fall out with my then business partners at the time and overnight gone from financial security to ruin and faced a legal conflict that mentally I was in no position to fight. I don’t think I had ever been as low in my life, but rather than “molly coddle” me or join me in my self-pity he lit a fire under me that drove me to get off my backside, face my responsibilities and fight. So I did, I borrowed money to fill my car with diesel, and drove to a prospective client and pitched for my first independent consulting project, which I won and from that moment set up my first business.

I grew this business through a number of directions and in 2009 partnered with my now business partner James Aspden. Things in our Industry were very unstable between 2009 and 2011 and a bright idea to move our business model from capital to service reducing our monthly income overnight just when the bank crisis happened and the UK economy took a nose dive put our future in jeopardy. So James and I sat down over a beer and had a real hard conversation about the future which boiled down to do we give up, declare bankruptcy and move on, or do we fight our way out of this. The answer was simple we fight.

Six years on and every day I smile, it’s been a tough road, I am not rich, and I don’t live in a mansion, but I do have a fantastic wife, a son I am proud of and friends and family I love.

So, in answer to the original question, success is being happy every day! Happy with who you are, Happy with what you do, and Happy with what you have. If you can find happiness, and work on it every day, then to me you are successful wherever you are or whatever you’re doing.

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