“You’ll spend 86,400 hours of your life at work,” I told an audience of millennials, “and in the wrong job, every single day will feel that long.”

86,400 hours is a low estimate, of course.  It omits all the time you spend getting to work, returning from work and then, middle of night, worrying about work.

I asked each audience member to complete, in writing, the phrase, “I will be successful when . . .”

It’s a tough question.  There’s no right answer, just your answer.  What’s important to YOU?  How do YOU define success?

I got 50 answers, which I later grouped into themes.  Some may surprise you.

1) Money. (Ok, not surprising, but there were plot twists.)

I will be successful when:

  • I no longer have to worry about money.
  • Money is not the purpose.
  • I believe I don’t really need money to be happy.

2) Achievement. (A big one for me.  I like the feeling of crossing things off my list, even small things like “get bananas.”)

I will be successful when:

  • I feel like I’ve worked my hardest.
  • I accomplish something that I thought was impossible.
  • I rise above myself every day.

3) Impressing others. (Hmm, this one is hard to admit. I may still be trying to impress my father.  That’s not easy;  he died 10 years ago.)

I will be successful when:

  • I’ve truly made my parents proud.
  • I can buy my father a Rolls Royce. Or a private jet.

4) Leading/collaborating. (A toxic culture can kill you, but job-seekers often overlook the people-environment. I remember a client company where everyone looked tense.  And I felt tense too!  It was the sort of place where you’d never even think about eating a banana.)

I will be successful when:

  • I serve as a leader to others around me.
  • I stop competing internally with my colleagues.
  • I enjoy the people I work with.

5) Making a difference.  (Another big one for me. In my late 20s I wrote a purpose statement; it’s been an anchor ever since: communication that entertains and/or enlightens. )

I will be successful when:

  • I’m making a positive impact in others’ lives.
  • I serve the best interests of those who depend on me.

6) Love the job. (Yes! Although not necessarily every minute.)

I will be successful when:

  • I enjoy what I do because that means I have the motivation and ambition to do it well.
  • I wake up wanting to go to work.
  • I know this is the job I want forever. The “forever” feeling.

7) Misc.

I will be successful when:

  • I own a dog.

Tip:  What version of success are your chasing?  Turns out, it’s easy to chase someone else’s version.

As the year winds down, it’s a good time to reflect on what really matters.  To you.

© Copyright 2018 Paul Hellman.  All rights reserved.