“If I ask 100 different people, they will give me 100 different definitions of success. But I define success as the pursuit of a worthy ideal.”—Napoleon Hill, author of the best-selling book, “Think and Grow Rich”


That is Napoleon Hill’s definition of success. It may work for you, but just because he is a best-selling author does not guarantee that it will. Each individual must create his/her own definition of success in order to be successful. I believe there are four components to defining success from an individual perspective:


Defining your skills; defining your desires; weighing the risks; and weighing the benefits. Let me discuss these components in detail.

Defining your skills

In order to achieve success, you must define it based on your skills.

Simply put, your skills are the things that you are capable of doing. It is not practical to say that you want to be a rocket scientist, if you already know that science and math are your weakest areas. Look at the subjects you were good at. Are those things solid enough to build a life around? Are those things strong enough to turn into a career?

You have to take inventory of the things you are capable of doing in order to define your actual skills. Once you define your skills, you can begin to set your goal for success.

Defining your desires

One of the biggest contributing factors to failure is the failure to discern between skill and desire.

Simply put, your desire refers to your interest in something. Look at the things that most interested you. Are those things solid enough to make a living from? Look at the extracurricular activities you were involved in. Are those things strong enough to build a life around? It’s not too smart to say that you want to be a professional basketball player if you weren’t even good enough to make the team.

However, if you were good at a musical instrument, perhaps a career in music may make sense. You have to take a look at the things that you are interested in and define your desires. Once you define your desires and determine if they can take you to your potential future, you can begin to set your goals for success.

Weighing the risks

If you know what your skills and desires are, you can make some good choices by weighing the risks. If you choose to make use of your skills at critical reasoning and debate, perhaps a career in law is the right career for you. However, if you already know that the field is crowded, then you are taking a substantial risk by dedicating some considerable time from your life to schooling.

Perhaps your desired career is based on your strong interest in a professional football career. However, if you already know that you have problems with your knees, then you know that you are taking a real risk that one injury could end your career before it gets started.

Weighing the benefits

For many people, an inventory of skills and desires will result in a number of choices.

The person, who has aptitude in one area of study, may also have a desire and interest in music or the arts. At that point, the benefits of each choice must be weighed and whichever offers the most potential may be the best choice.

“You are not judged on the height you have risen but from the depth which you have climbed.”—Frederick Douglass, 1881

The passage from Frederick Douglass should be kept in mind when applying the four components of defining success:

•Defining your skills;

•Defining your desires;

•Weighing the risks; and

•Weighing the benefits

Remember when applying these four principles, you must base your own personal  success on how far you have come from where you started, not on how far you are in comparison to others.

(Dr. Farrah Gray is author of “The Truth Shall Make You Rich: The New Road Map to Radical Prosperity,” “Get Real, Get Rich: Conquer the 7 Lies Blocking You from Success” and the international best-seller “Reallionaire: Nine Steps to Becoming Rich from the Inside Out.” He is chairman of the Farrah Gray Foundation. Dr. Gray can be reached via e-mail at fg@drfarrahgray.com or his website at http://www.drfarrahgray.com/.)

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