Make a Difference: What Does It Mean To Be Successful?

by Larry Sternberg

August 10, 2017BlogDevelopment

Wow! This is a challenging and nuanced philosophical question. The answer will be profoundly personal and therefore different for each individual. Moreover, as we gain wisdom, as our perspective evolves, the answer might well change. So we’re all well advised periodically to reflect on this question. The struggle to find the answer will likely generate more value than the answer itself.

You might find it helpful to think about success in the context of the various roles you inhabit, for instance: leader, parent, friend, significant other, community member, etc. You don’t need to focus on all roles. Just pick the ones you wish to think about.

Here are some questions to stimulate your thinking.

  • What kind of person do I want to be?
  • What’s important to me?
  • In my heart-of-hearts what do I value most?
  • What do I want to accomplish?
  • What do I stand for?
  • What example do I want to set?
  • What values do I want to embody?
  • What positive difference do I want to make in the world?
  • What do I want people to say about me at my funeral?
  • In terms of the time I invest in various activities, what’s the ideal balance for me?
  • What do I want my legacy to be?

If you devote your life to a cause you deem worthy, but you don’t achieve your goals, are you a success? If you achieve your goals, but were dishonest in your approach, are you a success? If your art isn’t appreciated during your lifetime, are you a success? The answers are up to you and only you.

We’re always in the process of becoming. Are you doing what you wish to be doing? Are you becoming the person you wish to become? If so, I’d say you’re on the path that’s right for you. In my book, that’s success.

Thanks to my friend Cydney Koukol for suggesting this topic.

And thanks for reading. As always, I’m interested in your thoughts.

Larry Sternberg


Larry is a Fellow and Board Member at Talent Plus where he helps people and organizations grow by using the Talent Plus science to select high potential people, put them in the right fit for their talent, and make them feel valued and significant.

“I help managers and leaders make a lasting positive difference in the lives of their employees.”

Talents: Conceptualization, Relationship, Ego Drive, Individualized Approach, Growth Orientation