Encompassing Failure : Can we really measure success?

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Encompassing Failure

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Suc▪cess. /sɘk’ses/ noun

This is such a difficult word to define because of the many ways that it can be interpreted. To some, success is living a life filled with wealth and prosperity; others would say it is accomplishing a goal. A google search says that it’s the attainment of popularity or profit, or a person who achieves a desired aim.

Personally, I think those are awful definitions. I mean – what if you haven’t accomplished your aim or purpose, but instead accomplished something else? Does that make you unsuccessful?

How can success be defined in a way that encompasses not only those who achieve wealth or fame? How can it be defined to include those who weren’t popular in high school? How can it be defined to include those who haven’t accomplished their end goal? 

There can’t be a right or wrong definition of success, it’s just not possible. There is no single formula that can define an individual’s path to success. For example, those who know about my early graduation in high school seem to think that I’m a good representation of that two-syllable word. But am I really? We’ll see.

Fail▪ure. /’fālyɘr/ noun

Now this is something that can easily be defined. We all seem to know when we, or someone else, has failed at something – right? We’re so quick to judge others and let them know when they haven’t succeeded. 

The oxford dictionary says that failure is a lack of success; an unsuccessful person or thing. Alright, well clearly success and failure are related, but how? What exactly defines success? And what defines failure? Is it even possible to measure success? How can we know what the meaning of success and failure are if we can’t measure it? 


Well, it turns out that in order to measure success, you really only need yourself and a goal. Let me explain.

Most of the days during my senior year were the same. Wake up at the crack of dawn. Make it to the bus stop seconds before they leave. Walk the hallways with a mask on my face.  

Although it was my decision to go from being a sophomore to a senior in less than a year, I don’t think I ever actually embraced that decision. I thought it’d be easy to leave the classmates that I’d been with since 7th grade. I thought it’d be easy to complete two years’ worth of school in one. I thought it’d be easy to bond with my new classmates. To put it simply, I was wrong. 

Walking through the lifeless hallways was a blur, hearing nothing but “Congrats!” and “You’ve accomplished so much!” I was in pursuit of a goal. I had a goal of graduating early, jumpstarting my college career, and achieving “success.”

I distinctly remember the excitement I felt knowing that I would be a senior after my sophomore year, a year closer to my goal of becoming a doctor. I distinctly remember reassuring myself that I’d fit in with my new classmates, people I already knew. But I also remember walking the hallways alone. I remember seeing my former classmates, my friends, in the hallways knowing we weren’t going to the same place. I remember wishing someone would notice and even ask how my day was going.

So yes, I had done all the necessary steps to accomplish my goal, but did I manage to sacrifice joy and happiness in the process?

    Eventually prom came along. Soon after was our senior trip to Disney. Day one was probably the best – within the first couple of hours, I managed to drop my phone in the river (sorry dad). My group and I hopped from store to store not only to dodge the torrential downpour, but also to recuperate. Recuperate meaning to relieve our aching feet for a measly few seconds. Did I mention that our shoes and socks were off? Or that we had shopping bags to carry? The rest of the week was a blur, but I do remember the pleasant feeling that it was almost over. We’d soon be graduates. 

Less than two months later I was walking down the aisle to join my class on stage. I was officially an early graduate of high school, representing something entirely new to my school. I had broken a glass ceiling; you could even say it was the biggest accomplishment in my life. Yet, for a long time I wasn’t sure whether or not it was a success like most people say. That goes to show that what one person may consider a success may not be the same for the next individual.

Suc▪cess. /sɘk’ses/ noun

    This really is a difficult word to define. Here I am – a person who achieved the desired aim – and at this time in my life, I didn’t see how that was successful. I had (and still have) a long way to go. This goes to show that we cannot use the dictionary’s definition as a measuring stick, we must set our own measure.

Fast forward to me, now in my junior year of college. I graduated from a community college with my A.S. in Biology. I am now a Psychology major, still in pursuit of med school. Do I think it was worth it? I do. I’m glad I graduated early from high school, and glad that I can be an inspiration to my little brother. However, I’m not sure I’ve achieved success. Yet. My decision to graduate early from high school stemmed from my desire to become a doctor. So I guess you can say I was “successful” in getting closer to that, but overall, it won’t be a success (to me) until I finish that goal.

So I guess what I’m really trying to say is that you cannot let others define what is successful for your life, in whatever stage of life you’re in. We all have different end goals, and different motivators in our lives. Just because you may not have succeeded in one task or goal, doesn’t mean that there aren’t other, more rewarding paths for you.

You can give up a job where you make 100,000/year to become a stay-at-home mom, and I’m sure many people would say that was dumb. But was it? There are people who decide to do this to stay home and bond with their kids. To them, it was a success. 

Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk. Share in the comments what success looks like to you – I’d love to know!

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  1. Gina Shaw says:

    I love this!! Amazing job Ari ???

  2. Rena says:

    Things that make you go hmmm… there’s no doubt that we all define success differently. I’ve been successful over the past years as it relates to financial growth, however until recently I’ve not felt successful in living out my purpose. I finally know that I know I’m going the right direction and to live out my purpose will be success for me.

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GARLIC OBSESSED, ENNEAGRAM 1W9, CHRONIC PERFECTIONIST, JESUS LOVER.

Hi, I'm Ariel.
Your Hype Girl +  Self Awareness Coach.

I'm a Starbucks lover, fizz dealer, master chef, creative baker, worship leader, dog mama, crisis counselor, cheese connoisseur, and passionate writer.

I've never been one to limit myself to a single title, and you shouldn't either. I bet you're more than a daughter, more than your age, and more than your job.

When I was in college, I noticed people around me lacked vision for their lives. They felt so restricted by society's expectations that they weren't living according to their own passions. And I wanted to help.

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