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Adii Pienaar

Now working on Receiptful. Co-Founder & ex-CEO of WooThemes. Author of Brandiing. New Dad. Ex-Rockstar.

On Defining Success

I woke up this morning thinking about how blessed I am to actually love my job. That thought process led me to think about success and how I - in the context of being an entrepreneur - define success for myself.

From the top of my head, I guess success could be defined as any (or a combination of) the following:

  • Profitability or the more precisely, the extend thereof (I drive a Porsche, so I'm successful).
  • The freedom of working for yourself and doing a job that you love / find challenging.
  • (Alarmingly) mainstream tech media sometimes seem to believe that raising funding equals success.

Faced with the challenge of defining success for myself, I'm reminded of a quote (unattributed as far as I know) that my wife once shared with me:

The true definition of success is when you stop making excuses for yourself.

For me this has always been one of the most difficult things, because we are wired to measure things relative to each other. And that's how we measure our personal success, or are at least tempted to do so.

John Wooden gave this fascinating talk about success at TED back in 2001 and he basically says that success is only relative to yourself & whether you gave your best (paraphrasing massively there). In my mind, this thinking gets me closer to what my own definition of success may  be. 

Towards the end of last year, Chris Brogan published an article "That Sense of Overnight Success" which included this striking paragraph (as his definition of success):

Success, you see, isn’t a mansion and a yacht. Success is living the life you want and doing the work you’re best at doing with the people you know will help you reach the next level. Success means working on projects that you know will fulfill a deep felt passion within you, and yet, will feed your family. Success is knowing that you’ve built a thriving network of people who all work hard to grow each other’s capabilities. Success means finding a next angle and vectoring your efforts towards growing that out. Success means having the means and capability to make better decisions. Success means getting home in time for dinner. Success means leaving the house when I want to, and staying home with the kids when I want to, all while making a future for my family.

I  specifically bolded one line in that paragraph about coming home for dinner, because that really resonates with me. I really, really love my job (it has never felt like one) and I'm a passionate entrepreneur, always on the look out for the next big growth spurt or adventurous marketing campaign. One of my favourite things though, is coming home to my wife and an amazing home-cooked dinner.

My peers would probably / generally regard me as being successful and they'd probably base that perception on the reputed size of WooThemes, the house that I live, the holidays I take and perhaps the fact that I get to work for myself. My definition of success is slightly different though.

Success for me is having the opportunity to work on something I love and be allowed to build a business around that. There's a little bit of success in the knowledge that every decision I have to make isn't influenced by money as the determining factor. More so, money can't buy time and success to me means I have the freedom to spend my time on the important things in my life (home, my wife, family, friends). Success is the opportunity to shape my life to find the best fit for my natural personality. Success is making my own rules (for myself & the things over which I exert control) and not making excuses for those decisions. Success is the opportunity just to be me and feel content about that. (I guess too that this will soon change with a baby on the way...)

What is your definition of success?

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