In my last two columns, I wrote about failure. So it’s probably time I talk about success instead. That is, after all, the ultimate goal.

But the word “success” can be misinterpreted and misunderstood every bit as much as the word “failure.” I think the biggest reason is that many people think of money as the main – and sometimes the only – measure of success.  Another is that people also equate success with happiness.  Neither of these is really true. If they were, then without exception the richest people in the world would also be the happiest, and the poorest would be the unhappiest. And the only measure of someone’s happiness or success would be the size of their paycheck or bank account. But it just doesn’t work that way.

One good thing to remember is that success means different things to different people.  And even when success is defined in terms of money, there’s usually more to it than that. Several of the people I have coached have had dreams and goals that had to do with money, or with new jobs that generated more income. Quite often the underlying desire had to do with other issues – security, peace of mind, validation, or self-confidence. Or it was more about what they could do with the money. Travel. Study. Support causes that were important to them. Spend more time with the people they loved.

At a meeting I attended a few weeks ago, the speaker was a woman who is extremely successful no matter how you define the word. In response to a question that someone in the audience asked, she said, “I admit freely that I am motivated by money.” She went on to say that money provides her with the financial freedom and security to do what she wants to do, when she wants to do it. And, in fact, she is about to embark on a three-month trip abroad, where she will be studying, learning, and perfecting a new skill that she wants to develop.

This woman could easily be considered the poster child for success – and for happiness, too, I would imagine – but she’s also the first to admit that it took a lot of work and many sacrifices to get there. And I’m sure there were many failures on the road to the success she now enjoys.

I’ve long held the belief that there were three main components of success, and that we could all consider ourselves successful if we were doing something that we love, that we’re really good at, and that rewards us, whether it’s in financial or other ways. More recently I’ve added one more component – that whatever we’re doing is something that makes the world a better place in some way. If we are doing something that fulfills all these criteria, I think the odds are pretty close to perfect that we’ll be both happy and successful in our lives.

What’s your definition or description of success? I’d really like to hear it, so if you have any thoughts or insights on the subject, please email them to me at

Whether or not you take the time to do this, I hope you’ll give some thought to what the definition of a successful life would be for you. I also hope you start taking steps now – if you haven’t already – to achieving it.

And with whatever you decide, attempt, and accomplish in the process, I want to wish you every success!

The column “Find Your Buried Treasure” appears weekly in the Chanhassen (MN) Villager. This column was published on July 5, 2012.

© Betty Liedtke, 2012

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