Stop Trying to Chase Success

There’s a fantastic thread on Quora that’s been grabbing some attention lately. The thread in question, If I haven’t succeeded in my mid 20s, could I be successful in the rest of my life?, hits hard on the human need to be someone special… to be important… to matter.

Of course as you’d expect, the responses were overwhelmingly, “yes, of course your can succeed outside of your 20s.” What I found interesting though were some of the examples of success. From edw519 on Hacker News:

Harland “Colonel” Sanders was 62 when he started Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Rodney Dangerfield started writing jokes when he was 15. He finally hit it big when he was 52.

Ray Kroc was 52 when he started McDonalds.

Orville Redenbacher was 58 when he founded his popcorn business.

Ronald Reagan was a B-List actor who was 56 when he became Governor of California and 70 when he became President of the United States.

Grandma Moses was 78 when she started painting.

Tina Turner was 44 when she recorded her first #1 hit.

The entire conversation got me thinking: how do we, as a society, define success? Where’s the line between mediocrity and success? Is there even one?

The truth is this: our obsession with success isn’t the healthiest human habit. I bet fulfillment isn’t possible if someone’s life is entirely motivated by the pursuit of success, rather than the pursuit of passion or pleasure.

Success comes in many forms as well. Some of the most successful people I know don’t have 100,000 Twitter followers or a movie deal, but are extremely happy as small-town parents making an honest living. Their greatest passion are their families and hometown friends.

That’s not to say the pursuit of success is a bad thing; it just shouldn’t be the focus of your life. While you may hope to someday achieve a level of success that will change the world for the better (I know I do), don’t sight of what sparks your passions. If you do that, then success — whatever shape or form it may come in — will follow.