The Measurement of success

People tend to measure the pinnacle of their successes after achieving career advancement, or acquiring some form of wealth: whether it’s through property ownership or owning stocks, bonds or mutual funds. Success, it seems, is computed by wealth and fame in society. Like do we really need all of this “stuff” to be considered successful? And why do we have to weigh our successes using the “celebrity scale?” Can’t we not use our own scales in our bathrooms?

I know a man who works everyday, 9 to 5, doing the same mundane job he’s been doing for the past 10 years. No significant advancement. No major bonuses. It’s the way he makes his living and he has been happy with the lousy pay check he gets bi-weekly. It’s safe for him to work with that company because it pays his bills. He is happy because according to Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, his basic needs are being met: Food and shelter are taken care of, his safety has been achieved through job security, he has friends and family support, and a little respect at work because of seniority. Would he be considered successful to us? Or would he merely be mediocrity?

I, myself, seem to be struggling to aspire to this imperceptible pinnacle. I keep telling myself, “I want to be successful” “I want to be somebody”. But, am I being fed the correct definition of success? Do I even know what it is? Or did I also mistakenly used the celebrity scale as well? I think the latter is true for me. As for that man I mentioned, society would consider him far from a success story because: he’s not popular, he holds no apparent status, and of course he doesn’t have any property to show for it. But do others have the right to judge him?

I neither have any materialistic possessions nor the money to buy any. I have no form of career, much less attaining any advancement in one. If those were the measures of all of our successes, then many of us would be utter failures. Maybe success is more than what meets the eye. It is a little deeper than physical possessions or status. At times, it is emotional, very personal, and often invaluable. No one can determine what success means to another, because we’re all aspiring to achieve different goals in life. I never want to stay stagnant, which means, to me success is about growth. It’s about overcoming obstacles in life, and making the experiences increase my wisdom. For me, success is when I can look back at the hills I climbed and say ‘Wow, I’ve done a lot of work!” Others may be on a much higher hill than I am, but it doesn’t mean that my small victories aren’t that. The point is, success shouldn’t be compared to others, especially because we’ll always find people in a higher position and still others in a much lower strata than we are.

Think about all the poor people of the world? Do they view themselves as disappointments? I doubt it. Mostly because they also are measuring themselves by what they know. If everyone around them is content with the small amounts of food they have, and the shack they call home, then there’s no reason to feel unsuccessful. They are as good as the people around them are. In North America though, a whole different standard of success applies. There are certain possessions one has to have in order for one to be stamped successful: career advancement, owning properties and enjoying fame and fortune. Other respected measures are not calculated as equal value to those mentioned: Having a loving and supportive family, ability to maintain shelter and safety, solo housewife and breadwinner. Doesn’t those count? I hope so.

I’ve come to realize that success means different things to different people; and we shouldn’t compare ours with others. What I have to keep telling myself is, I am a success no matter what. But can I really change an already deeply entrenched ideology about success that I already have? Have I even convinced myself enough? The good news is, I am in possession of a bathroom scale on which I’ll keep measuring both my small successes and the big ones, when they do come.

Published by

Shauna-Kay Cassell

I was born in Jamaica and have been residing in Canada for over 20 years. I graduated with Honours Bachelor of Arts degree at University of Toronto, a Graduate Certificate in Public Administration at Seneca College, and a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) at the University of the West Indies, Mona. I've worked for the former Ministry of Children ad Youth Services (now the Ministry of Children, Community, and Social Services). Now I'm a Court and Client Representative for the Ministry of the Attorney General. In my spare time, I write press releases, blogs, and news articles for different organizations, including my own website. I write about experiences about travelling, social justice issues, relationship and spirituality. Visit me at

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