The Meaning of Success

The Meaning of Success

This morning, I had the pleasure of chatting with Franco Lagudi, the business brain behind new internet startup The SOC Exchange, in relation to an article I’m writing for Nett Magazine. I have a lot of admiration for Franco as he has an extremely principled attitude to business that insists on rewarding the consumer for their own success.

This is why Franco’s online trading site – allowing sellers to open their own online stores for the princely flat rate of $1.00 per month – refuses to charge commissions or listing fees in a direct challenge to the traditional eBay-style model. Franco insists that a seller’s profits should stay their own – he doesn’t want a slice of anyone’s good fortune and doesn’t want to penalise sellers with exponential fees for offering a lot of popular stock. With eBay’s insistence that sellers offer Paypal on all their listings and other restrictive behaviour – not to mention a long list of fees and commissions – The SOC Exchange provides a clear alternative to online sellers. Franco’s approach to online business has attracted a huge amount of press attention in the States, from Fox Business to Forbes.

Franco on Success

Therefore, I was very interested to hear Franco’s opinion on success today. When defining success, Franco insisted that it wasn’t about money or power, expensive cars and pouting women. “What is success? The way one person might interpret success can be completely different to another. What do you consider successful? Driving around in a Rolls Royce or driving around in a Ford Mustang? It depends which car you prefer to drive. A lot of it comes down to perception. You’ve got to be happy in what you’re doing.”

Our society most often equates success with wealth and glamour. Starlets on red carpets, CEOs with fat paychecks. But would they classify themselves as successful if you asked them? There are enough stories of depressed millionaires and suicidal celebrities to indicate that wealth and glamour isn’t necessarily a sign of success to those who have it.

Success is an individual goal achieved – a perception of a personal lifestyle. This means success can be incredibly simple. “One guy might think success is sitting on the beach pulling in a few hundred bucks a week, enough to support him on his own. That might be successful for him at that period in time. But it ain’t going to be successful for me with a wife and kids. And a mortgage and a car and school fees and everything. Different people have different levels and it doesn’t mean any one is worse or better than the other. The point is is that success is a pretty loose term.”

So success is about the individual goals you have at each stage of your life and the elements that allow you to feel contented. For me, my family is more important to me than fast cars, so the strong relationship I have with them is success for me. My working life therefore has to contribute to that goal and I will never compromise my family to chase money. Riches at the expense of family would be the complete opposite of success for me, even if others would envy my wealth.

A Successful Factory Hand

Franco’s view reminds me clearly of my previous job as an employment consultant. I once was the facilitator for a group of long term unemployed jobseekers looking for work in a variety of fields. Part of the program discussed the principles of the dream job and deciding whether there was a realistic means of achieving it for each person. For many in the group, their suggested dream jobs were ambitious for their current situation, but that is exactly what I wanted to encourage. Office manager, librarian, television cameraman, etc. Yet one mature member of the bloke claimed his dream job was on the production line in a factory.

The others in the group chose to ridicule him. “Surely you can think of something better than that.” I asked the gentleman to explain his decision. Quite rightly, he explained that at his time of life, he already had his house covered. He would love to spend his remaining few years before retirement earning enough to pay the bills without placing undue responsibility or pressure on him. He didn’t need a lot of money as his needs were simple; food, an occasional book and a couple of beers with mates on the weekend.

I am happy to say he is a success story. He found his dream job and had the lifestyle he wanted, that made him comfortable, that kept him content.

The Greek Fisherman

At this point, I told the group one of my favourite little stories.

A rich and vibrant international CEO was holidaying with his family near a small Greek fishing village. One lunchtime, while walking past the docks, he noticed a fisherman mooring up his boat for the day.

“Stopping work already?” he asked. The fisherman replied. “Yes. I spend the morning fishing to provide enough income for my family. By lunchtime I finish and then I can spend the afternoon with my family and friends in the cafes in the sun and playing my bouzouki.”

The CEO saw the large catch then fisherman had achieved in one morning. He had an idea. “Sir, have you ever considered what you could achieve if you stayed out a bit longer each day? The extra fish you catch would provide extra income that you could save. With those savings, you could then buy a second boat, and then a third. As you buy more boats and hire more men, you bring in more fish. Soon you could have your own fleet.”

“With all that additional fish coming in each day, you could expand your fishing operation to other villages in Greece and then maybe abroad. With a little extra effort, you could become a very powerful and rich man. Just think what you could do with all that power and riches. You could do whatever you wanted, retire anywhere you wanted. What would you do?”

The fisherman considered for a moment.

“I’d retire to a little Greek fishing village where I could fish in the mornings and spend the afternoons with my family and friends in the sun and playing my bouzouki.”

Choose Your Own Success

Success is about lifestyle, not about money. Success is individual for each and every one of us. I am quite content living with my beautiful soon-to-be wife (12 weeks and counting), spending time with my wonderful teenage daughter and working in a job I love. A few extra dollars wouldn’t go amiss (have you see how much wedding flowers cost?) but that isn’t success for me. Success is what I have already. Success is allowing me to do more of what I truly enjoy.

As Franco said to me this morning, “You have to decide for yourself what it is going to take for you to be successful in your own world on your own terms.” Franco’s entire business model is built around other people being successful and keeping the profits of their own success. His satisfaction derives from providing opportunity for others to achieve their own goals – however big or small – and The SOC Exchange is an example of that philosophy.

How do you define success for yourself?

Comments

  1. Very interesting post – I’d also like to retire to an island – The Bahamas, not Greece.
    Stumbled and linked to from my most recent blog carnival (http://getinternationalclients.com/get-international-clients-sunday-blog-carnival-19/)

  2. Very interesting post. The personal perspective on success has already replaced the handed-down version for many people. As for defining Personal Success, I have been blogging on the subject for a little while now in a collaboration that intends to deliver a usable formula. Visit this post for an example: http://worklifefusion.blogspot.com/2008/08/career-leadership-and-personal-success.html
    Thanks again for the excellent post!

  3. It depends and varies with person to person.. You can never be success, if you work for someone else. Success is not measured by money, it’s measured by mentality. If you think that anybody on this earth is better than you, then you are not successful.