TED Conversations

Lizanne Hennessey

Singer Songwriter & Vocal Coach, Lizanne Hennessey - Voice Coach

TEDCRED 50+

This conversation is closed.

What is success to you?

When you were asked as a kid, what you wanted to be when you grew up, were you able to give a straight answer? Are you now that thing you wanted to be hen you were 8, or 11, or 21?

Do you agree that it is 'common sense' to choose a study that will guarantee you a job? Why? Because society dictates that we need to be "successful". I believe that success we are all trying to reach simply does not exist.

Who's to say that what you study is what you're going to be? What if your deepest desire is to be a musician? You study and you make the hours and you practice ad you work your ass off to be good at what you want to be good at, but what if you never reach that point of success you think you have to achieve? Does that mean you should give up?

Every set-back we experience in trying to reach that imaginary level of success, makes us feel annoyed, irritated, depressed, frustrated, and in some cases even suicidal. Why?

It is in our nature to always want more. Physically, spiritually, financially, materialistically… We are pushing ourselves to the extreme and don't seem to appreciate what we have achieved along the way, since the goal to reach that success is the only thing that matters.

So, Why are we so fundamentally unsatisfied?
We are trying to reach a goal that we did not set ourselves - it is set by society, by the media, by commercialism. We compare ourselves to each other, which is also a fundamentally human trait.

What makes us who we are, and how do we determine a level of success that is valuable to us as individuals?

Share:
  • May 15 2013: After a lifetime of disassociating from my authentic self in order to be who others thought I should be - a good wife, a good and diligent mother, a great legal assistant, a committed volunteer, an ardent advocate for positive change, a good and dutiful daughter, a supportive sister, a champion and supporter of other peoples dreams, and so on and so on, now, in my 60's I am finally reconnecting with myself and am taking "MY turn" to be who I know myself to be. That is not to say that a part of me was not all those other things. But the true essence of me, the authentic part of me included gifts that when used make me soar, take risks and fly, make my life resonate like a fine tuning fork vibrating with aliveness. I bowed to what others wanted of me in a way that I discarded the truest part of myself in order to be "perfect" for others. And that was MY responsibility for making that choice. I have had a good life, a happy life, a decent life, with many friends and wonderful moments. Yet something has always been missing. On my 60th birthday, I did a lot of soul searching. After much discussion with those I love, I am taking my turn to follow my dreams. And it is liberating, life enhancing, soul enriching. What have I learned? YOU are NEVER TOO OLD to reach for the stars... never to old to dream big dreams... never too old to recognize that "success" is not what other people choose for you, but what you choose for yourself. You are never too old redefine your definition of what makes YOUR LIFE A VIBRANT, SOUL ENRICHING, JOYFUL, SUCCESSFUL ONE. Who knew that in my 60's I would be able to walk on a stage, render a song, and make people sigh, laugh, cry, remember, feel, and be. My children are grown, the family business I helped build will survive without me, my friends will always be my friends. I am rediscovering myself. I am reborn. I am resonating with the Universe. I am successful. How delicious!
    • May 15 2013: Ellen, I applaud and commend you, and am truly inspired by what you've said!!!

      Who hasn't been in your position?! Kudos to you for "taking "MY turn" to be who I know myself to be". Society wants to pour us into that mold the minute we step into kindergarten, perhaps earlier! Those who can wrench out of it are those who have truly found the strength to be an individual. That, to me, is absolutely 'success', regardless of when it happens!!!

      Have you seen Jane Fonda's talk "Life's Third Act"? Your comment reminded me so much of her inspirational words:
      http://www.ted.com/talks/jane_fonda_life_s_third_act.html

      Happy Birthday to you, Ellen!!!
  • thumb
    May 4 2013: Dear Lizanne,
    I am still asked what I want to be when I grow up, and I'm not sure yet! I'm ONLY in my 60s....why should I decide so soon??? LOL!

    I have, and will continue to follow my heart throughout the life and death adventures, I feel "successful", and I know there is more to come. I do not experience "set-backs" because I perceive each and every moment as an opportunity to learn, grow and evolve as an individual, while contributing to the whole.

    I do not believe that it is in our nature to want more....unless we are talking about more learning and growth. I believe wanting "more stuff" is a learned behavior.

    “What Constitutes Success”
    By Bessie Stanley (1905)

    He has achieved success who has lived well,
    laughed often and loved much;
    who has gained the respect of intelligent men
    and the love of little children;
    who has filled his niche and accomplished his task;
    who has left the world better than he found it,
    whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul;
    who has never lacked appreciation of earth’s beauty
    or failed to express it;
    who has always looked for the best in others
    and given them the best he had;
    whose life was an inspiration;
    whose memory a benediction.
  • thumb
    May 9 2013: Hi Lizanne,
    Success in my opinion, is when you feel that you are walking in the same direction as the nature and universal laws.

    "When you do what you love, when you do the goodness to society, when you feel that you are happy ..."
    All this, east of success, and success is a message from nature that we are in the right direction, or on the right road.
  • thumb
    May 7 2013: A person is ultimately a combination of our thoughts and our actions. Thoughts compel a person to act and these actions define the person to the rest of the world. To a person, thoughts define him or her, but in a world view, it is that person's actions. So this leads to two different types of success: Success in the eyes of the world judges a person's accomplishments. For a college professor, this success is tenure and published papers. To a businessman, this success is a deal between companies or a new profitable marketing strategy. You get the picture. But there is another type of success: Personal success. Personal success is when you, as a person, do something that you are proud of and want to show to other people. It is when you feel like you make a difference in people's lives and are joyful because of it. That success is the success that is truly valuable.
    • May 7 2013: Hi Morgan, thanks for your thoughts on this!
      Absolutely - success can be interpreted in so many ways, depending on what we personally find important, how we measure our achievements.
      Personal success, to me, doesn't even need to be shown to others. I find myself celebrating an achievement by doing a little dance of joy or singing a little song all by myself, sometimes. Personal success to me, can be just that - personal.
  • thumb
    Apr 26 2013: Success is a dangerous word. It keeps us in fear of its opposite: failure. If I had my life to live over (I'm in my mid-60s) and had a wish it would have been that someone older than me had told me the value of failing. Over and over. Everyone wanted me to be successful, and I was taught "if you can't do something right, then don't do it at all." The message I got was 'don't reach out and try if you're going to fail to do it right.' What a poisonous saying. When I bump into discouraged young folks who are down because they have failed and who are discouraged at their inability to do what they had set out to do, I tell them to be gloriously happy -- because learning to fail is critical to success in life. And I tell them a (true) story: I met a 50-something accountant for a large oil company... well, actually a former accountant. He's gone to a good university and successfully obtained an accounting degree. He had successfully gotten an advanced degree. He had successfully gotten a good job and had had career success. He'd married a great wife, bought an expensive house, and drove nice cars.... And then he was replaced by two kids right out of college who -- together -- cost his firm less than he did. He lost the wife (divorce). He lost the cars. He lost the house (again, the divorce). When I met him he was in a deep depression, lost, living in a one-bedroom apartment. His successful life hadn't prepared him for failure. I realized my checkered past including career changes, being fired, being laid off, failing at supposedly 'simple' jobs (e.g. short order cook) and so on had left me with strengths he lacked. It wasn't that I was smarter or better or anything else redounding to my credit. On the contrary! NO! Failing had prepared me to pick up my marbles and move on, never giving up. He was 50+ and he was lost. I wasn't. His enemy wasn't something he was at fault for. It was something he had experienced: too much success.
    • May 4 2013: Hi Thomas,
      first of all, my apologies for not replying sooner! I am pretty new to TED, and am still getting the hang of navigating around!

      I agree, there is so much value in failure. Like that cliché we learned as kids, 'People make mistakes, that's why there are erasers on the ends of pencils'.

      Your story reminded of a story my friend told me, whose background was similar to yours. She was also taught to not strive to better herself, because she would most likely fail. Like you, she defied her parents' advice and went for it. Right now, she followed her dream and has achieved the highest possible level of education to help her become a respected expert in pedagogy.

      I think it's in our nature to want to protect our children from pain, misery, suffering. By denying them the opportunity to fail, we are denying them the opportunity to feel successful!

      Thank you so much for sharing this personal and insightful view.
  • Apr 21 2013: a. Success to me is: achieving those things that I need and my Family needs, providing if you will. Achieving it on my own terms, as a self employed person. So, achieving without joining the 'herd', gives me satisfaction; finding a way around the 'herd'. And I know 'herd' because I was part of the herd, before.
    b. What makes us who we are...as individuals? That level of success achievement is set by me, because if I allow someone/something else to set it, it would not be mine. For example; I need a vehicle to get around, but I don't need a $400.00 a month vehicle, I need reliable transportation, I would rather spend the money on myself and my loved ones,
    don't care how others 'rate' me. It's very liberating, and to me that is a form of success.
    • Apr 22 2013: Here's to breaking away from the herd and placing yourself and your family first on your own terms!
      Thank you so much for sharing this, Luis.
  • thumb
    Apr 20 2013: I equate my evolution as a person and as a human being, my level of success. Evolution and success for me are the same. They have same definition for me as i have already stated. More evolved i am , more persons i will be able to influence positively, more successful i am.
  • thumb
    Apr 20 2013: Hi Lizanne,

    I am somewhat disinclined to use the word success. However, as it is used here, "success" to me has always been about personal choices, personal achievement and fulfillment, tailored to one's own needs and desires. As you mention in a comment of yours further below, success "implies to me a state of being that is not determined by the individual, but by the masses". I fully agree, which is why the word success in that sense bears little relevance and meaning to me. It is important for me to take pleasure in what I do, to enjoy it. If through that I also help others, than this definitely adds to my sense of achievement, but it isn't defined by it. Not to mention that I am a firm believer in loving what you do as a means of doing it well. I have wanted to become an interpreter since I was about 9 years old, so I would be lying if I said that at that age my wish stemmed from my desire to help others and contribute to making their communication easier. It stemmed from my purely selfish desire to speak foreign languages and travel the world. Success is living your life the way you want (granted, you need to live in a democratic state to enjoy that freedom), while fully respecting those around you and the choices they make. It's not about being perfect in what you do (is there such a thing after all?), it's about doing it for the sheer pleasure it provides you and potentially those around you. It's about inner peace with the world around you. Success is not about blind perseverance (to attain goals that society has set for you), it's about recognizing what matters (to you and those around you, as "no man is an island") and letting go of the things that don't. Success is about being true to who you are and not being afraid to stand up for it.
    • Apr 22 2013: Niki, your comment was a joy to read. I can see that you have become 'successful' in achieving the goal you set for yourself when you were 9!

      I really like what you said: "It's not about being perfect in what you do (is there such a thing after all?)"
      Indeed - is there such a thing as perfection? I may be getting onto an entirely different subject, but I do think it has to do with this concept of 'success'. Who determines when someone has reached perfection or not? When we were kids, and we got a 'perfect score' on our math paper, did that count as success, or did that mean we just studied hard? Or did that mean, we had a knack for fractions?

      I am a singer, but according to our society's definition of 'success', I am unsuccessful. Why? Because I have never been on The Voice? Because I don't play gigs every weekend? Because my music isn't on the top ten chart on iTunes?
      Like you, I chose a profession I love doing, and enjoy that level of success every single day.

      Thank you for your inspiring words!
      • thumb
        Apr 22 2013: Hi again Lizanne,
        so happy my words resonated with you. In my travels (especially in the US) I have listened to countless "unsuccessful" (by society's standards) musicians play live. Their music performances were an absolute treat (Leah Randazzo was one of many, just to give you an example) and have stayed with me ever since. To me their success lies in exactly that: their ability to enjoy what they do enough not to care if they are "successful" by the music industry's standards and to perform with the same enthusiasm, be it before an audience of 3 or 3.000 people.
  • thumb
    Apr 19 2013: G'day Lizanne


    Living to the best of my ability at any given time no matter what I am doing, no one could ask more including myself.

    Love
    Mathew
  • Apr 18 2013: I don't think your job has much to do with your success as a person. If all you want is to be the best at your job, like you were saying, you're probably never going to make it and little good will come of it. Success as a businessman or engineer is irrelevant to what's really important: how you treat your family and the people around you. If you are trying to be a loving person and improve your character to become unselfish, that is success. All the money, fame, technological progress and causes furthered in the world cannot be a substitute for it.
    • Apr 19 2013: Couldn't agree more, Scot.
      I think success is who we are, not what we achieve. It's not about getting success, it's about being it. And absolutely, that starts with how we show respect and appreciation for those around us.
  • W T 100+

    • 0
    May 15 2013: They say the difference between try and triumph is a little "umph!!"
  • thumb
    May 14 2013: How many lives i have influenced positively is my yard stick of success.

    To me most successful people were Buddha, Christ, Ram , Gurunanak, Mohammed
    ......Gandhi, Lincon...Einstien, Edward jenner, Wright brothers....Shakespear etc etc
    • May 14 2013: Thanks, Adesh!
      And arguably, the people you named are becoming even more successful as time passes, in a postmortem state!
      • thumb
        May 14 2013: In my prayers i seek immortality.....The people i named are immortal.

        Lizzane through your music you are influencing lives of people...keep up the good work.

        Best wishes.
  • thumb
    May 4 2013: You cannot move to the same location you already occupy. This goes against the entire purpose of moving.

    You are already successful. So when you try to achieve this state problems occur.

    Success sometimes comes with considerations for future events. Sometimes we look far into the future. Variables in the future cannot be relied upon as mapping points today. You can use them as a guide to what possibilities exist. However, to set your goal as "being successful" will only bring negative consequences for you.

    What we need to do is break things down.

    1. If I had no physical or monetary limitations what would I be doing with my life?

    You need to be able to fly....in your head. Remove the limitations you feel that prohibit you from moving forward. Honestly...they don't exist anywhere else besides your brain.

    2. Stop assuming success is a long-term goal.

    To assume success is a "state" is inaccurate. Success is a "check-point" of each function you execute.
    a) Pick up a pen - Success
    b) Write on the job application - Success

    If you are thinking.
    A) Get a job - Success
    B) Become rich - Success

    You are leaving out quite a bit of functions.

    Then...realize that if you ignore the smaller functions you will never reach a goal or become successful. Ask yourself what it is that you need to be doing now.

    1) I need to do A right now.
    2) If I am successful doing A I will move to B
    3) Depending on the outcome of B I will do either C or skip to D

    Do not consider factors in the future. Why? Let me explain.

    I will do A and then B, C, and D.

    Time may change D entirely. D may become irrelevant entirely. You cannot ride on hope for the execution of a C variable when you haven't even touched B. Focus on A. Then focus on B.

    Success is a step by step process that you achieve every single day. You are already successful. What you are trying to do is reach a goal. Success comes in small bits...and it enables you to execute functions on the micro level.
    • May 7 2013: Well said, Henry. Success and 'reaching a goal' are two entirely different things, and by following the steps you illustrate, one may end up reaching a different goal than originally intended, and may be pleasantly surprised with the result!
  • Apr 21 2013: a person can be successful at what he/she does but in the same time not successful in his/her relationships..etc etc. I think being balanced in everything is the ultimate success
    • Apr 22 2013: Hi Yaqoub,
      I agree 100%. Being successful doesn't mean being successful in everything you do - I think we'd have to be super-human in order to achieve that. Achieving that balance is success in itself.
      • Apr 23 2013: Hi Lizanne,
        You are absolutely correct, we have to be super-human. In my opinion, by the end of the day when we place our heads in our pillows we should have a clear mind. This is the feeling of success. Be serious about your job, family, friendships,relations and yourself but balance the seriousness.
        • Apr 23 2013: I just had to laugh when I read "when we place our heads in our pillows we should have a clear mind". I fear I haven't had a clear mind since I was 6! So many ideas, so many thoughts, so many unrealistic goals to note down... I'm the type of person who keeps notebooks under my pillow so I can write down ideas or scrawl an inspiration from a dream in the middle of the night!

          Seriously, I do completely understand and agree with you though, that being serious about those things means taking those things seriously, which comes down to respect for one another, beginning with respect for yourself!
  • thumb
    Apr 20 2013: It's when you always feel good, and you always find the way how to solve the problem. When everybody respects you, and prouds of you. When everybody helps you and tries to always be with you.
    • Apr 22 2013: Kamila, I appreciate so much what you are saying - indeed, regardless of WHAT you achieve, it comes down to respect for yourself and for each other.Thank you!
  • thumb
    Apr 20 2013: Success = Self-satisfaction
  • thumb
    Apr 19 2013: Lizanne Hi
    How many people are influnced by us positively is our circle of influence.

    The bigger is our circle of influence, the more successful we are, more evolved we are.

    I will explain
    The least successful person is one who looks after no body.
    Who looks after his family is better placed.
    Who takes care of his community is more evolved.
    looks after the state or the country quite successful
    influnces lives of whole humanity is most successful and most evolved.

    Put one example from your experience in each category and think.
    i would like to know from you whom you consider most successful.

    adesh
    • Apr 19 2013: Hi Adesh,
      Thanks so much for this contribution! It's definitely got me thinking...!

      I really like the way you described the individuals within those categories, and agree that the level of involvement in society and treatment of others can have a positive effect on that individual. And in most cases probably increase his/her level of happiness. I wonder, though, if that is really "success"?

      I admit, I don't like the word "success" because it implies to me a state of being that is not determined by the individual, but by the masses. I believe in choosing your own level of success and striving to achieve it, regardless of how unrealistic or impossible it may seem.

      What is your personal idea of success? Is it a goal you set for yourself, or one that has been put upon you externally?
      • thumb
        Apr 20 2013: I equate my evolution as a person and as a human being, my level of success. Evolution and success for me are the same. They have same definition for me as i have already stated. More evolved i am , more persons i will be able to influence positively, more successful i am.
  • thumb
    Apr 19 2013: Living a life of no or least regret.
    • Apr 19 2013: Pabitra, I absolutely agree.
      Having regret is like denying the paths you took to lead you to where you are at this moment. If you drive a car from A to B, you can't simply erase the road you drove on to get to where you're going if you don't like where you ended up!
  • thumb
    Apr 19 2013:
    .
    Continuously making a-step-better for keeping his/her and our DNA alive
    is the success to any person.
    • Apr 19 2013: Yes! Reproducing ourselves and raising our children to become individuals and participants of this world is what we were genetically designed to do, and we do manage to succeed in that as a population. Whether or not it's a good idea to do so, is perhaps another discussion...!
  • Apr 19 2013: Being successful is becoming less and less likely for me, but it doesn't seem as attractive as I once thought.
    • Apr 19 2013: Hi George,
      I'm intrigued by your answer. When you say 'likely', do you actually mean 'important'? Was your idea of being successful before something you were striving for, or something you felt you had to achieve, according to society's standards?
      In any case, it sounds like you're letting go of that standard, which is a very good thing!
  • Apr 18 2013: I always wanted to be a wildlife artist, but got sidetracked now and then. But my art was always there for me & finally developed it. The success, of my work is not so much about the money or fame, it's about the look on my client's faces when they see the art for the first time. That is worth more then gold.
    • Apr 18 2013: Fantastic. I just happen to feel the same way! 'Succeeding' in creating something is success in itself! Thanks so much for sharing this!