What Defines Success

William Edward Hickson. Never heard of him. How about Thomas H. Palmer? Nope. But that's what makes the internet amazing. See, Hickson and Palmer are both credited with the proverb:

'Tis a lesson you should heed:

Try, try, try again.

If at first you don't succeed,

Try, try, try again. 


As I age, I start to reflect on life experiences to date - both the good and the not so good. I'm still young, so there isn't a lot of self knowledge to share; however, you can learn a lot from others who've experienced so much more than you. The trouble in defining success and failure, at the end of the day, is entirely up to you.   

What constitutes trying too hard? Over the course of the last year, I've tried at a number of things, but I've failed. Well, I think I have failed. My definition of failure varies from others, but that's what makes us, well, us. A lot of misery is born from trying and failing (and it hurts). People will often tell you to keep on trying as if that will be the recipe for success. But what about when trying does not succeed? When do you 'cut' your losses and move on?

I am not suggesting that people should give up easily when trying to attain a challenging goal. I am thinking, though, that there are times when people may pick unrealistic goals and then try to make it work despite the odds. This can lead to feeling very bad about yourself. Believing you do not have what it takes to succeed might lead you to pick more realistic goals or seek advice more readily. But, what if you succeed by setting goals that may be too easy? Again, at the end of the day, only you can decide.  

This is the art of goal setting and defining what success means to you. Are you an optimist, pessimist or realist? Knowing who you are may help you along this path of successes and failures that are part of your life. If you want to succeed, you must see your successes as an outcome of planning, preparation and execution: things you actually did to achieve the positive outcome. Ask yourself, when did you work on something and it turned out okay? When did put in a ton of effort only to receive a less than good outcome? We can all think of examples. 

I am not suggesting that you make half-hearted efforts or to just quit when you stumble. There is great value in persistence. But trying when there is little or no chance of success is not a good plan. It will lead you to feeling worse about yourself. Just keep in mind that I am not discussing the ‘Hail Mary’ desperate circumstances that may come up from time to time. I am discussing real life, everyday goals: for me that is primary school and athletic endeavors. Easy, right? 

I'm learning that most successful 'self-made' people make LOTS of mistakes. They just notice them faster and quit going down the dead end path so that they can try something different. They don't keep trying to hammer that round peg into the square hole, even though some of folks make it work :)

'Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.'

-Winston Churchill


The objectives will change. Your goals too may change and you should remain flexible and accommodate the situation around you. Take a minute to notice your contribution to your successes and that will help you believe more in yourself and develop the ability to select goals (realistic and the opposite) that match up to your talents and abilities. For me, I will continue set lofty goals, never settle and strive to be the best person I can. So what, I didn't accomplish all my goals over the last year, yet new unrealized outcomes turned into massive successes. This past year, with the help and perseverance from my friends, I was able to do something that I never ever thought about - I did a front flip on Nordic skis. It wasn't a goal, but I was still successful. I failed at first, but I tried...and tried again. Go ahead and try and you too shall fly.

- Zach


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