Want To Be A Success? Follow This One Simple Rule

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Ok, time for a mental exercise.

Close your eyes. Or…at least think about what it would feel like if you closed your eyes. Got it? Ok, now clear your head of any thoughts. All you can hear is the sound of my (online) voice. Ok, now, tell me the first thing you think of when I say this word:


What popped into your head first? Was is a shiny red Ferrari racing down the Autobahn at 150 MPH? Or maybe your dream kitchen, complete with built in espresso machine and hired master chef? Or possibly sipping fine wine on your private jet over to Italy?

Success is one of those interesting words that has evolved over time, and has been attached VERY CLOSELY to fame and fortune over the years. The word success may actually even bring you down because it’s always something that seems out of reach in your world. What, with celebrity worship at an all-time high and advertisements telling you what will TRULY make you happy is more stuff, it’s hard to feel that success is a word we can apply to ourselves.

What Is Success?

Success is actually very simple. Merriam-Webster has the best definition I have found:

The correct or desired result of an attempt

That’s it. Or, to put it another way;

Success is achieving the goals you set for yourself.

But if you look at any of the dictionary websites, you can see wealth and money have also crept their way into the definitions. And this is what I believe we as a society believe success truly is:

The fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect, or fame

This definition is short-sighted, and at worst, demoralizing. It assumes success is a word that can only be applied to an elite group of individuals.

No, this definition won’t work. Success is a word that can (and SHOULD) be applied to everyone who pursues it. And it’s as simple and setting a goal and hitting it.

How To Be Successful

Since we’re now in agreement that success isn’t just becoming rich and famous, we can now look at the word “success” with slightly more optimism. It’s not something reserved for everyone else, it’s something we should grab a hold of as our own and put in front of us, knowing we can achieve it.

It’s as simple as this:

Pick one thing you want to accomplish this week. Write it down somewhere visible so you can’t miss it. Now put together a plan and set aside the time needed to accomplish this goal.

You have now set the benchmark for success. If you don’t accomplish the goal, then you did not succeed, but if you do accomplish the goal, you are now successful!

Whether it’s something small like emptying the dishwasher, or something BIG like applying for a new job, you can apply the word SUCCESSFUL to yourself this week!

How To Become A Success

So what if you’ve already hit a few goals but still don’t feel like a success? You still look at the fancy cars, big homes, and people working for themselves and think “welp, that’s what success LOOKS like and I’m not even close!” I get it. I’ve been there, and still struggle with the same thing. No matter how many goals I hit, I don’t feel like I’m a success.

But really, becoming a success is just as simple as our definition above. If “success is achieving the goals you set for yourself”, then becoming a success is as simple as being intentional to continue setting and hitting goals. That’s it!

And here’s the big idea. When you set a goal, no matter how small, and you hit it, there is an energy released in you that really gets things moving. It’s like someone turned on the Motivation Machine and pumped you full of ambition! It reminds me of Dave Ramsey’s analogy for his snowball method of paying down debt. You start with a small win, and that motivation carries over toward your next goal, which is bigger and better than the last. And as you mow through those goals, you get more and more momentum until you look up and find that you’ve tackled an entire mountain of challenges!

So, how do you become a success?

You set a goal today. You do whatever it takes to hit that goal. And then you set another, more ambitious goal. And just keep going.

Soon, your entire life landscape will look different, and you WILL be a success. And the “am I a success?” question will start to seem silly, knowing that you were all along.

So, what are you waiting for?

Start today, succeed tomorrow.

Jacob Wade

Jacob Wade

Jacob Wade has been a nationally-recognized personal finance expert for the past decade. He has written professionally for The Balance, The Spruce, LendingTree, Investing Answers, and other widely-followed sites. 
He’s also been a featured expert on CBS News, MSN Money, Forbes, Nasdaq, Yahoo! Finance, Go Banking Rates, and AOL Finance.

In 2018, Jacob quit his job and his family decided to sell everything (including their home) to take off on an adventure. They traveled the country in an RV for nearly 3 years, visiting over 38 states, 20+ national parks and eventually settling in the sunshine state!

9 thoughts on “Want To Be A Success? Follow This One Simple Rule”

  1. I love the way you lay out what success is. I’m a big believer in using small wins to help accomplish more for that reason. Just being able to accomplish things, no matter how small, helps you gain more and more momentum towards accomplishing bigger successes.

  2. Success – see: happy

    It’s impossible to define success in a broad manner. Wealth can be inherited and undeserved. Fame can come as a result of doing something terrible. And great respect can be in the eyes of some, while the person being respected may despise what they’ve done or are depressed because of it.

    Yes, I’d say the goal of all people is to live a happy life. Doing so, it would seem, would mean you’ve been successful.


    • Happiness is a great goal, but it’s falters in that happiness is fleeting, and what makes you happy now will continue to change. That’s why it’s the “pursuit of happiness”, not an end goal ever reaching, but something that will be pursued. Now, I would say, feeding into that pursuit is success, which is achieving what you set out to accomplish.

  3. YES! Love this. Defining our own success gets us away from the Joneses, empowers us, and puts us in control of our own destinies. For us, finally realizing that our definition of success is freedom was a watershed moment. It helped us align all of our actions to that singular goal and made all the rest of it seem a lot less important. We’re so glad we took the time to think about what success really means to us. Doing so truly changed everything.

  4. When Mrs. SSC and I came together to realize FIRE was possible, it formed the goal we could both work towards together. When you said picture something, and then said, success! I saw the mountains from my front porch as the kids get on the school bus, and I have my day free from work to do what I choose. Yep, that’s my version of success. Great post!


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