How Do You Measure Success?

by Joe Plemon on June 28, 2013

Last fall, at a class reunion in Palm Springs, CA, 39-year-old Steven Burton wore dress Navy attire displaying the Navy Cross, the highest medal that can be awarded by the United States Department of the Navy. This award is given for “extreme gallantry and risk of life in actual combat with an armed enemy force and going beyond the call of duty.” Mr. Burton also wore the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and other medals. The problem is that he was never in the military. Unfortunately for Burton, another classmate, who was a real Navy commander, asked a few questions and subsequently followed up by contacting the FBI. Burton has been charged with wearing these medals fraudulently and could face up to a year in federal prison if convicted.

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Creative Commons License photo credit: mariachisamurai

Evidently, being a bank teller did not convey the image he wanted to share with his classmates. But this incident causes one to ponder how we judge success. Has our concept of success become so skewed that we are embarrassed to be faithful spouses, diligent parents, and solid citizens? Does success need to be something spectacular or could a hard working mechanic, truck driver or construction worker be considered successful? How about the single mom who is balancing her life in eight directions while trying to do the best for her children? Or the stay-at-home mom who has decided that investing her life into her children is more important than investing in her career?

Before you read any further, stop and answer this question: How do you measure success?

How did you do? Isn’t easy is it? Somehow success needs to incorporate our values: what they are and how well our lives reflect them. Success needs to be dynamic: an ongoing process of achieving dreams while dreaming new dreams. While a successful life should have some stopping points, reaching success should never mean stopping.

One never magically arrives at success, for reaching a peak in life will only give you a view of another mountain worth climbing. Success, therefore, is found in the process.

So I ask again, “How do you measure success?” Here is a borrowed definition I like:

Success is the progressive realization of worthwhile goals.

If you are already in the process of realizing worthwhile goals, you are already successful. I congratulate you and wish you a truly successful year.


{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Mrs. Money December 30, 2009 at 9:45 am

I think that as long as a person is happy with what they’re doing then they are successful. I know that society today doesn’t feel that way though. 🙁


Joe Plemon December 30, 2009 at 10:34 am

Mrs. Money,
Absolutely! When we do what we are passionate about, we will experience success and discover happiness. “Society” may not understand, but look around…most of society doesn’t seem really happy. I wonder why…perhaps they have the wrong concept of success.


Mneiae January 7, 2010 at 5:41 pm

I don’t know the answer to the question. My aunt and uncle tell me that being rich is the way to be successful. My dad says having a stable situation is success. I think that I’m going to draw up a list of what would be necessary for me to consider myself successful in the future.


joeplemon January 7, 2010 at 5:53 pm

If your aunt and uncle are right, then most Hollywood actors and actresses would be considered successful, even if they have been divorced six times and are hooked on cocaine. Being rich can be a curse for many people.
I like your plan. Making a list of what would be necessary for you to be successful is a great start.
I challenge you to think about the definition “Success is the progressive realization of worthwhile goals”, then think about what worthwhile goals you have.
Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.


Jim July 23, 2013 at 2:50 pm

Success has many different meanings to lots of unique folks. For some success is accumulating a stock pile of cash, for others it is making a difference in a child’s life, yet others find success in winning a big game. I guess the moral is, that it’s a case by case basis and has many meanings.


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