“Success” is often not what it seems, or possibly more accurately, what we are shown.
We see headlines, Instagram reels, and our neighbor who bought a fancy car, but these are surface-level.
Real success means something more.
And it’s a lot less romantic than it might seem.
Today, we confront four hard but liberating truths about success.
These truths won’t pat you on the back, but they will force you to reconsider what success truly means to you.
Let’s dive in.
Truth #1: It Is Born from Failure
Here’s a reality check for you: success and failure are not mortal enemies but close cousins in the same family.
In a world that glorifies highlight reels and success stories, we tend to forget that behind every triumph are countless stumbles, setbacks, and face-plants.
Success isn’t a linear path; it’s a chaotic maze filled with dead ends and wrong turns.
The tale of Thomas Edison, one of the greatest inventors of all time, echoes the sentiment of this chaotic journey toward success. His quest to create a functional light bulb was fraught with failures. Yet, Edison refused to see these attempts as dead ends. He famously said:
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
His relentless experimentation and refusal to give up, despite the myriad unsuccessful attempts, ultimately led to one of the most significant inventions in human history—the light bulb.
Likewise, J.K. Rowling’s journey to becoming one of the most beloved authors of our time was riddled with rejection and personal challenges.
Her manuscript for “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” was turned down by twelve publishers before finding a home.
These rejections did not deter her; they were merely obstacles on her path to success. Rowling’s perseverance paid off, and the “Harry Potter” series went on to sell millions of copies, capturing the hearts and minds of readers around the globe.
What we don’t see in the headlines are the sleepless nights, the rejection letters, the failed projects, and the moments when people like Edison and Rowling questioned their sanity.
It’s the resilience to overcome these challenges that forges the path to success.
The road to success is paved with the bricks of failure.
Embrace each one as a lesson, not as a defeat.
Truth #2: It’s a Moving Target
This is one that might ruffle a few feathers: Success is not a fixed destination.
Think about it.
Have you ever set a goal, worked your tail off to achieve it, only to find that once you reach it, the finish line has moved?
You thought landing your dream job, hitting a certain income level, or finding the perfect partner would be the ticket to happiness.
And for a fleeting moment, it was.
But then, it faded, and you were left thirsty for more.
This is the cruel irony of success: it constantly adapts to your desires. Just when you think you’ve grasped it, it evolves into something else—something shinier, grander, or more elusive.
Reflecting on this, the philosopher and writer Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Life is a journey, not a destination.”
This quote encapsulates the nature of success perfectly.
It’s not a static point to reach but a series of experiences and continual growth. It’s not a place you arrive at; it’s a path you walk.
Realize this, and you free yourself from the exhausting chase of an ever-moving target.
By doing so, you allow yourself to appreciate the journey, find joy in the progression, and, thus, find true success in the continuous pursuit of excellence and self-improvement.
Truth #3: It is Deeply Personal
This one might be the most liberating of them all: success is not a one-size-fits-all concept.
It doesn’t come with a universal checklist or a predetermined set of achievements. Instead, it’s a deeply personal and subjective notion that varies from person to person.
In a world that often measures success by external markers like wealth, status, or fame, it’s easy to lose sight of what truly matters to you.
We’re bombarded with societal expectations and peer pressure that can make us feel inadequate if we don’t conform to a particular standard of success.
But here’s the truth: we live short lives.
Your version of success should be defined by you and you alone.
It’s not about living up to someone else’s standards or conforming to society’s ideals. It’s about identifying what genuinely fulfills you, what brings you joy, and a sense of accomplishment.
Your success might involve building a loving family, creating art that resonates with your soul, making a positive impact on your community, or simply finding inner peace and contentment. It might not look like anyone else’s success, and that’s perfectly fine.
Success is what you make of it.
Truth #4: It Requires Sacrifice
In the age of instant gratification and quick fixes, we’re sold the illusion that success is effortless, that you can have it all without breaking a sweat. But the reality is quite the opposite.
Success comes at a cost, and that cost often involves making difficult choices and sacrifices.
To achieve anything truly meaningful, you must be willing to give up something—whether it’s time, comfort, or even other opportunities.
Consider the legendary success stories you admire. Behind the scenes, you’ll find people who traded weekends for work, parties for preparation, and short-term pleasures for long-term gains.
Mark Cuban, for example, spent seven years without a vacation when building his first company.
His path may not fit your definition of success, but the point is that whatever definition of success you choose to pursue will likely require focus, discipline, and commitment.
Raising a family, for example, requires making sacrifices in various aspects of life, including personal time, career goals, finances, social life, and even sleep.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not advocating for a life of relentless toil and misery.
But I am saying that if you want to climb the mountain of success, you’ll need to leave some baggage behind.
It might mean sacrificing leisure for learning, saying no to distractions, or even distancing yourself from toxic relationships that hold you back.
We can’t do it all. We need to define what is truly important to us.
The Bottom Line
As you navigate your own journey toward success, remember that it’s not about mirroring someone else’s life but crafting your narrative.
So, go out there, chase your dreams, stumble, get back up, and remember that success, in all its glorious messiness, is a journey well worth taking.
It’s not about reaching a destination but about living a life that aligns with your deepest values and passions.
In the end, that’s the kind of success that truly matters.