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What Is Success?

In Life, and In Sales...

· career

If you’re reading this post, I would argue that you are likely interested in having a purpose in life. 

To take it a little further - you are probably actuated by having a purpose for your life. 

Am I right? I mean, my shit isn’t that exciting to read on its own. You invest the time to read it in hopes that maybe there’s an idea here that will help you, right? 

"Jeez, Todd, that’s a little salty."

 Well, I just recovered from a bit of a health scare. One that had me plopped on the couch for far too long. One that had me forced to stare at the image box on the mantle called the television, which is something I typically can’t stand. But reading books or magazines made my head spin. I was stuck with bad TV, and lots of sports.

Coming out the back end of this illness, which was unnecessary and a little bit stupid, simply returning to working on my clients, my book and my brand seemed strange. Something was stuck in the back of my head. 

What is all this effort for? 

I, like you, am actuated by having a purpose for my life. It became much more apparent to me. The most generic associated term with that purpose? Many would say that word is…”success”. 

But what is success? Look it up. Take a moment. Google it. The definitions and articles I found...I don’t agree with any of them. None. Not one. has a convoluted definition that meanders around to definitions of success like:

the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors; the accomplishment of one's goals.

the attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like.

a performance or achievement that is marked by success, as by the attainment of honors.

Yeah...not really. 

My lens is different now. I’ve landed on what I believe to be my own vision for what will leave me thinking about whether I can consider myself a success when I finally leave this planet. 

  • It’s not money...although that’s a part of it.
  • It’s not fame...although that’s a part of it.
  • It’s not impact...although that’s a part ot it.

Actually, all three together - in equal parts - none missing - to me are what I believe success to be.


A representative of success is evidenced in having something tangible to show for what you've done. In our world, those who we would consider to be successful have the tangible rewards as evidence. They have been able to work the system to generate a return for their effort which allows them to do more - not less. Money allows us to to focus, to make investments, to great growth with an associated smaller effort. Wanting for nothing feels like part of success, right?


In tends to reason that making a name for ourselves tends to relate with being successful. Of course, there are people who are famous for being morons, but that’s clearly not what I mean. Part of success is to be associated with success. Part of success is having others associate you with achievement, recognition and the, “Hey, that person is successful” label.


What seems forgotten so often in the definitions of success lands in the bucket of - what benefit on society have we made? Can we be successful if that success hasn’t left the world a better place than what it would have been without us? Broadly speaking, can we consider ourselves a success if we have not achieved the benefit to society we are capable of achieving? 

All three - money, fame & impact - must be present for success to be achieved. 

To simply be rich, sitting in your mansion counting your money - is that successful? 

To simply be famous, but poor and not having made a positive impact on others - is that successful?

To simply have had made a positive impact on others, but nobody knows it, sees it, and you struggle day-to-day - is that successful?

In speaking to a colleague about this concept today, he told me the story of him talking to his son about Instagram fame:

“Dad, how would you feel if I became an Instagram star, made millions by the age of 18, and didn’t go to college?” 

Is that success? Or is that a flash in the pan - of money, with no lasting legacy, and having made no real impact on society on the whole? 

Even in the case where you’ve achieved just two of the three - the rich and famous who haven’t helped make society that success? 

The rich and impactful that are forgotten the minute they that success?

I’ve come to the conclusion that it takes all three components in equal parts. That’s my focus. Leave behind a legacy with a name for our family, earning associated rewards for those efforts, but having the gratification of consciousness that my life’s work is of real benefit to humanity. 

The Sales Profession

Could there be an argument for the sales THE profession that affords normal, everyday individuals the highest odds of being able to achieve the true triune of success? 

Let's think about it. Who would you deem successful today?

This triune concept was inspired by a sales leader from 100 years ago. His name? Norval Hawkins. He was know by Henry Ford as his “million dollar man”, and by others as the greatest salesperson of the era. In his book, The Selling Process from 1920, he talks about this idea that sales affords the greatest opportunity for success.

He points to three people. 100 years ago! And they are all three people that, even today, you probably have heard of, and you probably associate with success. 

He argues that, in all three cases, without sales as their foundation, none would have been successful:

  • Charles M. Schwab, who gained his fame and riches in steel-fabricating, constituted our greatest industrial asset of offense and defense in the war and made the world safe for democracy. 
  • Marshall Field set a stand of merchandising for every story on earth, great or small - the standard of “The Best Service to the Customer”
  • JP Morgan enlarged the vision of American bankers, who before his day seldom could see beyond the ends of their own noses, and revealed to their sight world-wide possibilities for the power of the dollar. His contributions to the strength of our country following WW1 have aided everyone. 

Who is “success” in your eyes today?

Jeff Bezos?  Elon Musk? Warren Buffet? All founded their success via sales. All making a huge impact on the world beyond just dollars and fame. All leaving a lasting legacy.

It’s a fuller lens by which to see your focus. Could I make more money as an executive somewhere? Of course? Is writing a book a marginless battle? Yes...absolutely. But the path I’m on feels good to me - like I’ll have enough money, and if I play my cards right, I’ll leave a legacy as it relates to this profession, and hopefully have made an impact on others - on society, to make sales a place that can be associated with trust, respect and even admiration. 

What do you think? Is success what they say it is? Is it something broader?

Who's successful in your eyes - who doesn't have sales as a foundation?

Are we on the right path?

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