TED Conversations

George C Carroll III

Campus College Chair, University of Phoenix Hawaii Campus

TEDCRED 500+

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How do you define success?

There are a number of success theories out there (be this, be that, do this, do that).

How do YOU define success?

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    Aug 14 2013: How I define success has more to do with how I don't define it, which is as the opposite of failure. Success, in other words, has far less to do with results, accomplishments, or achievements, than I think most people realize. To me, success is intimately associated with effort, intention, and lack of attachment, which are ways of interpreting success as a journey and not a destination, which puts the emphasis on the way of success, not the point of success.

    Theodore Roosevelt puts it better: "Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure... than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat."

    I think success is in the daring.
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      Aug 14 2013: I had been thinking of putting it in words but was not able to! Kind of echos my views. Thank you Daniel for this!
    • Sep 1 2013: To strive for success in the face of mediocrity is a noble pursuit, but it's a far greater individual who settles for common utility in a world of notoriety.
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        Sep 4 2013: You would like the 'heroic ideal' in David Foster Wallace's unfinished novel 'The Pale King.'
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          Sep 4 2013: Wasn't the Pale King an exploration of boredom more than it was a piece elevating common utility?
        • Sep 6 2013: Daniel - I took a quick look at Mr. Wallace's biography. It's chilling to think his principles led to suicide. It's unfortunate he lacked flexibility.

          I found the concept of "New Sincerity" an interesting doctrine. From what I read...I appreciate the desire to reintroduce sober thought, but I feel current cynical dogma requires more than a manifesto of desires.

          That said...I'm always open to reading other points of view... so if I get a chance I'll read "Pale King" Thanks for the heads up.
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        Sep 6 2013: Gord G., I don't know that it can be said "his principles led to suicide." If he was suffering from a mental disorder (severe depression) it may have been that it was a neurological condition and not a philosophical one which led to his untimely demise.

        Fritzie, it was an exploration of the unacknowledged heroic qualities that go into battling faceless dragons like boredom!
        • Sep 6 2013: True Daniel. There are many biopsychosocial factors that can cause major depressive disorder. My response could have been phrased differently.
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        Sep 9 2013: I'm making 'biopsychosocial' my word of the day.
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    Aug 12 2013: Doing what you love to do every day. Getting paid is a bonus.
  • Aug 12 2013: Having the Lord say "well done thou good and faithful servant"
    • W T 100+

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      Sep 12 2013: Stuart let me ask you, if I may, what makes one a good and faithful servant?
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    . . 100+

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    Sep 5 2013: Success is being my authentic self and contributing what I can do best to help community.
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    Sep 1 2013: My definition of success can be described with one word...........REMISSION.
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    Aug 17 2013: I saw Aisha Tyler (she may as well have quoted this) say something that I liked regarding success: Success is not the abscence of failure, but the perserverance through failure. This doesn't really answer the heart of your question, but I like to mention it whenever the topic of success comes around.

    I currently define general success as helping others (either by tangibles or non-tangibles) as much as possible within reason, and again within reason not harming others. Obviously it differs for particular jobs/situations/whatever but I think it's a decent overarching theme.
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    Aug 14 2013: My personal definition of success is based on fulfillment. If I set a goal, whether I reach it completely or not. I have succeeded in something. By pressing toward a mark in all attempts, I have succeeded by taking my dreams and making them as real as I can. When my efforts have been depleted, I ask myself one question, "Are you satisfied with the results?" Satifaction to me isn't as dangerous as contentment.

    When I hear the word content, I hear complacency. I understand that sometimes I need contentment before I reach satisfaction (in certain cases), but I don't want to get complacent. I feel like I stopped striving for my goal which in turn makes me associate that with quiting.

    But satifaction is a form of gratification to me. Sometimes delayed, but nonetheless, obtained.
    • Sep 1 2013: You're commenting from an ego centric point of view. Success must contain an aspect of community, of shared experience. Though it's impossible to fully understand disparate consciousness, I feel we need to at least attempt to comprehend other's individual experience.
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        Sep 1 2013: The only disagreement I have with your comment is that you are passing a false judgement. The question was how do I define success. Not how do I feel I can be successful in community. As a young adult growing up in a world that consisently tells me how I should be successful, I believe my definition helps me so I can help others. But I cannot give to someone what i have not tested and proved myself. Like my faith.
        • Gord G 50+

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          Sep 6 2013: I appreciate your heart felt desire to share your experience. And I agree, too many people feel a need to pass judgement. But to assume you're giving someone something, is a passive form of judgement. It infers they're lacking something.

          I think you can present your experiences and what has helped you, but ultimately it's up to them to accept it. To integrate it into their concept of the world.

          [I know I'm splitting hairs...but when you have children of your own you'll be surprised how quickly you develop frizzled ends. ;-))
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    Aug 13 2013: Hi George,

    There have been conversations with exactly the same subject with a lot of great points made. Here's the links:

    http://www.ted.com/conversations/18259/what_is_your_definition_of_suc_1.html

    http://www.ted.com/conversations/4974/what_is_your_definition_of_suc.html

    The comments were very individual and personal. To quote some of them -
    "Fulfilling dreams",
    "learning from failure",
    "To love, to be loved, earn the respect of my peers, and live in comfort, while doing no harm.",
    "SUCCESS CAN ONLY BE ACHEIVED THROUGH STRONG PERSEVERENCE AND IT IS THE FRUIT OF OUR LABOUR.", "Success is self defined and is simply personal fulfillment. You are successful when your vision and mission are accomplished."

    ...and many more.

    What I've learnt from the responses is what is concluded in the last one I quoted - it's self defined and it's personal fulfillment, of whatever sort.

    To add a more personal tune here - I remember getting stuck in a train compartment with an entrepreneur. I was about 21, a student, immersed in my books. All the low-cost seats were taken and I had to buy a first-class seat (and use two subsequent weeks to recover financially...) He began telling me his story of success, of how he started his own waste management company around Warsaw. I remember being completely unimpressed and uniterested in this, I was at a different stage of my life. I would definitely be interested now, but it would still be his story, his success and his vision and fulfillment.

    I hope I helped :)
    • Sep 1 2013: Self defined success precludes empathy and makes everyone's journey more difficult.
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    Aug 13 2013: George, Success must be measured on many planes. Are you a success if you become a doctor, make a lot of money .... but never get to know your children ... see your wife two hours a day?

    We put labels on everything. Why? The toughest person in my life to please is the guy in the mirror when I shave. I have to admit that there will be ups and downs ... successes and failures. What I look for is ... did I put forth my best effort.

    I don't spend my time worrying about success ... I am more concerned about being the best person I can be. There are plenty of other that spend their time worrying about what I do and say. Since they have taken the task of judging me, the opinion of me being a success or failure is being covered. LOL.

    I wish you well. Bob.
    • Sep 1 2013: How do you determine what's best? It's still a value judgement.
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        Sep 1 2013: Gord, I am 70 years old and come to discover that the tough decisions of what is best are really the easiest. They may not be the most popular but they are usually no brainers. My daughter will die without a three hundred dollar purse ... will miss you ... no. I cannot afford it .... I don't get it. Europe this summer or the new car we really need ... look at the travel pictures of Europe while riding in the new car ... maybe another time.

        Values can be defined as broad preferences concerning appropriate courses of action or outcomes. As such, values reflect a person's sense of right and wrong or what "ought" to be.

        That brings me right back to my original statement .... The toughest person in my life to please is the guy in the mirror when I shave. AND ... Did I put forth my best effort.

        My kids have enough friends ... it is my job to be their parent and show them love, respect, and put forth my best effort hopefully based on sound VALUES as you suggest.

        Great question ... thanks for the reply. Bob.
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  • Aug 13 2013: Only one real kind - make things better.
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    Aug 12 2013: If you solve a puzzle (in no matter what kind of aspect or field), you have succes.
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    Aug 12 2013: How many lives you have influenced positvely in your life

    is measure of you success.


    How long can you remain in hearts and mind of people

    after you are gone, makes you immortal.
  • Sep 12 2013: “What's money? A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and goes to bed at night and in between does what he wants to do.”- Bob Dylan

    I concur

    Aloha George I spent 20 wonderful years in Hawaii
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    Aug 16 2013: Simple. Be yourself. There is no greater accomplishment. Or easier.
    • Gord G 50+

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      Sep 1 2013: Every despot in history was being themselves. It requires more.
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        Sep 1 2013: Obviously, your definition of SELF and mine are different. And to your definition, it requires more. To mine, it doesn't.
  • Aug 14 2013: Getting what you wanted.
    • Sep 1 2013: Like Bonny and Clyde. Oh wait....they died in a hail of bullets. I guess there's more to it.
      • Sep 1 2013: Well then they didn't suceed now did they? I'm pretty sure getting filled with lead was not what they wanteds.
        • Sep 6 2013: They got what they wanted. Money. Unfortunately they didn't concern themselves with the method or the consequences. A decidedly ego centric approach. Nor did they have the intellectual finesse of a Wall Street sociopath.
      • Sep 6 2013: Yes they didn't butanything that makes it go wrong against what they wanted isn't sucess simple as that. And wall street sociopath? a little random of an analogy.
        • Sep 6 2013: "Cause a man with a briefcase
          Can steal more money
          Than any man with a gun."

          - Don Henley
  • Aug 13 2013: People can reach the certain point of sucess when they are only focus on their work. The power of concentration is really influential not only on oneself but also other people. If it makes people happy as much as possible, sincere happiness comes from the inner heart and that is a true sucess!
  • Aug 13 2013: Live a life you feel frankly,sincere.Let yourself get as clean as bluesky day by day.
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    Aug 13 2013: .

    I define
    success is having made a-step-better for keeping our DNA alive.
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    Aug 13 2013: Success is

    To remain happy all the time , under any situation , no matter what.
  • Aug 13 2013: another question would be defining life success - some would say fame, wealth, power, glory, nobel prize, improving the human condition, etc.

    I have a simple measure would be the number of friends I have and mean friends - not acquaintances. Friends are people I trust with my life,more importantly, the lives of my family. If I need help or they need help, we will be there for each other and if they need money the question is not why but how much. I have had a few but many are gone.
  • Aug 12 2013: Major successful day to me is where i can be proactive rather than being reactive. That usually means less meetings, less phone calls.
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    Aug 12 2013: Each time I achieve a goal , silly or important , tiny or big doesn't matter that's success to me .
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    Aug 12 2013: Your question is discussed very often in TED Conversations. I would say whatever gives a person a sense of fulfillment is success for that person.
  • Sep 6 2013: Regardless my personal opinion on the meaning of success, if I respond to this question in a manner that I think will garner thumbs up, is that success or pandering? I imagine many undergraduates have learned to not make the distinction. :-)
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      Sep 6 2013: Although I'm not a student, I want to respond to your interesting comment as interaction. :)
      I think thumbing up to others is an encouragement and interaction to others. For me, my core interests lie in the new ideas and different ways of thinking here. I'll never lose my passion here if I can meet intriguing people as well as their ideas. Every time when I got 1 thumb-up, I felt this is a surprise which made my life more colorful.