How can we tell when we have achieved success?

What is success? What will it look like for you? You work hard, you work smart, you compete and you innovate. At what point in time do you sit back, relax, and think “I’ve made it”? Will this be on the back of a yacht (perhaps with a big cigar!), or maybe just in an easy chair in the conservatory; the key thing is what will be the trigger?

How will you know when you are successful?

Let’s consider what TV and the media portray as being successful. The images that we are presented with that create our expectations of success. What do they suggest success looks like?

Take Dragon’s Den, for example. Here are 5 successful entrepreneurs, each with a big wad of money on the table in front of them. That’s a pretty clear image! These five people have the power to change the lives of those budding entrepreneurs, offering a path to fame and glory if they choose to invest in their dreams. Those dragons have power and they have money.

Then there is The Apprentice. A bunch of (frankly rather excitable) young people trying to become an important cog in Alan Sugar’s machine, with a big salary. They seem to be seeking money and power, but also influence.

Then there are programmes like The X Factor. Making money from art, turning creativity into a competition. For the victor, a contract which can lead to fame and, of course, riches.

And there is the film which, more than any other it seems to me, has defined success for the young entrepreneur: The Wolf Of Wall Street. This film follows the career of Jordan Belfort, a con man stockbroker preying on people with not much money. It’s an unrelenting film showing what success can really get you. He had it all: money, drugs, boats, women, anything and everything.

So what does the media portray as being successful? It is, demonstrably, the following: Power. Influence. Money. Fame.

But what about happiness? Where does achieving wellbeing fit with this portrayal of ‘success’? You see, for every high profile person shouting about their achievements and showing off their wealth with brand new Bentleys and personalised number plates, I could show you 100 people quietly enjoying their success. They go on nice holidays with their friends, they walk their kids and grandkids to school and they are happy in their lives.

Who do I think of as successful?

Mark McCormack is one. He basically invented the business of sport. He became agent to golfer Arnold Palmer when there were no such things as agents. His company, IMG, is a huge worldwide management agency in the world of sports people and celebrities.

He wrote a wonderful book called ‘What They Don’t Teach You At The Harvard Business School’. It is full of anecdotes and tips. My father gave me a copy of the book when I was 17. It’s a great read (I am terrible with business books usually!). All these stories and tips build up into one, unifying message:

In order to succeed in business, be nice to people.

My definition of success is flexibility of time. I think someone who chooses what they do during the day is successful. That could be doing a job you love or having enough money to retire. As I say, everyone has their own measure.

When I was able to take a day a week off to write novels – and I had reached that point with the respect of my colleagues, peers and friends – that was one significant moment in which I thought I’d achieved some success.

Having a plan in life requires clarity of the destination. That way you will be able to recognise success when you see it.

And, if you follow Mark McCormack’s example, when you get to that point that you can consider yourself a success. When you get there, you can allow yourself a pat on the backand you can also be proud of how you got there.