Money, prestige and popularity are many times seen as the true marker of success in business.
However, I was recently in the room with some of the most successful entrepreneurial minds in today's marketplace, and that wasn't at all what they were interested in.
Instead, what these top entrepreneurs, business owners and online marketing thought leaders seemed to be looking for was an impact, a feeling or a type of significance. Doing something more than just making money.
That same sentiment was echoed during a recent conversation I had with high-level Business Coach and Consultant John Hawkins, who has spent several decades coaching, speaking to and consulting for some of the biggest-name brands and companies on the planet.
Meet Your Enemy
Hawkins, who has worked with several mega-millionaires, says that they're often the most unhappy people he's come across in his travels.
"The enemy of your happiness is success," he told me during a recent podcast interview. "And what I mean by that is really simple. Success is something that's very fleeting. For example, if I'm a sales guy and I have a ten million dollar quota this year selling software, if I make my number, fantastic. I'm the superstar and yet, come January 1st, I have to start all over.
"People start chasing success versus striving for significance," Hawkins continued. "You're trying to keep up with everyone around you with regards to the cars and the trips and the vacations and the schools. And the reality is, success is much different than what we have labeled it as in the past."
Instead of success, Hawkins says, people should chase happiness, which he defines as "a constant striving to be as excellent as possible in the surroundings where we are."
Diamonds and Pig Droppings
Hawkins uses the comparison of diamonds and pig droppings as an analogy for understanding how you can strive for significance despite your circumstances.
"Here's the deal. When you drop a diamond into a pile of pig excrement, what changes?" Hawkins asks. "Neither one. They both retain their individual properties. A lot of times, we as people, can be dropped into situations that we don't necessarily like or expect to have happen to us.
"I have spoken numerous times with people who've been in a company for twenty or thirty years and all of a sudden, they get a pink note. And the funny thing is, when we're dropped into these situations that we don't like, our happiness will carry us a lot further than our success."
Happiness vs. Success
This is a paradigm shift for many, to be sure. The idea to stop striving for a corporate definition of "success" and instead strive to be "happy" needs to be explored a bit further, according to Hawkins.
"I do strive to be excited about the place and time that I'm at, to be excellent at everything I do, to expect greatness from myself and from those around me," he says. "I find that the conferences I speak at and the schools I visit and the boardrooms I'm in, that people really want to do things that matter, for reasons that matter, with people that matter.
"And it's not just about winning that next deal. The people that are in that mindset, they're lost, and it's sad because life is so much more than that."
Hawkins went on to tell the story of a high-level CEO friend and client who had just been diagnosed with stage IV cancer.
"I'm sharing that because her life was really built around her work and about being as successful as possible," he told me. "And she called me and she says 'What do I do now? Where do I go? What does this look like?'
"And that's something that, in a short phone call with her, I was able to help her realign some things and realign some values. That's kind of my purpose. I want to make sure that people are living up to their full potential, that at the end of the day they die empty, that they don't have anything left to give."
Bringing Transparency Back
Building a business based around your happiness is something I've experienced firsthand. I've also discovered that it sharing your "why" when talking to prospective customers or new clients helps build better relationships.
For example, while my "job" is teaching others how to use LinkedIn to generate business for themselves, my passion is living a life where I get maximum family time and the freedom to build a company that suits my lifestyle, rather than the other way around.
When I share more of who I am and what I'm passionate about with my clients and prospects online and elsewhere, it builds up the "Know, Like and Trust" factor and moves me from just another LinkedIn Trainer to someone relatable, likable and good at what he does.
For you, happiness might be defined much differently, based on your own background, values and stage of life.
But what that room full of top-level entrepreneurs and John Hawkins reminded me of recently was this - the type of "success" we think of normally isn't nearly as satisfying as the happiness we have at the end of a career (and life) doing what we love.