"Is working at the grocery store a good job?" my 13-year-old daughter recently asked. "Don't give me the long answer, dad. Please just say yes or no."
We all could argue over the definition of success. It means something to different to everyone. Some of you might say success is a dollar figure. Others might say it's a title. Others might say it's a lifestyle you've been able to live. And still others might define success by the impact they've had on other people.
When my kids ask me questions like these, I've always struggled to find the perfect response. But when a young woman named Jessica recently asked me to define success during lunch at a conference, 10 answers instantly sprung to mind--all things I've learned from people at every level of an organization, and from all corners of the world.
1.You understand the value you offer.
In my early 20s, I was working for a company that was laying people off every Friday. Every Thursday I would meet with the executive team to determine who would get let go the following day. This was the first time in my career when I truly thought about the value we all create daily at our organizations. When you understand the value you create--and that the more value you create, the more valuable you are to the company--you'll quickly achieve success.
2. You don't seek praise, but get it.
We all love to be recognized. But there's a difference between seeking praise and creating work results that demand praise. If you understand that your work, your effort, and your results are what will win you respect and praise, then you've already accomplished a level of success that is admirable.
3. Progress is always exciting.
The irony of success is the fact that the moment you quit succeeding, you've failed. Success is a moving target. But people who get excited by progress--constant hurdles, slight setbacks, and new challenges--have already discovered success. Why? Because they understand that the future is consistent change. There will be more wins and more losses. They're successful because they accept it.
4. You realize you can learn from everyone.
When we're young, it's easy to look up to people who have achieved great accomplishments, like Elon Musk, Reid Hoffman, or Sheryl Sandberg. I've been lucky enough to work alongside some of the most notable figures in business. Still, I've found that it's the moment you listen to everyone that you find success--because even some of the most unlikely, most unsuccessful, people can share wisdom that you won't find anywhere else.
5. You possess a certain level of scrappiness.
No matter where you come from, who you know, or what experience you gain, the one thing that truly separates successful people from marginally successful people is their level of scrappiness. If you're the type of person who will claw, scratch, and kick your way through a life or career challenge, you've already achieved a certain level of success because you know what it's like to want something badly, and how to fight for it.
6. You have no problem saying no.
Saying no doesn't mean you're hard to work with. It means you have a voice, an opinion, and a line in the sand you won't cross. I speak with leaders all the time who tell me they count on people to reject their ideas. They wish more people would learn to voice disagreement (in a professional way). If you feel comfortable saying no, you've succeeded--because you've figured out who you really are.
7. For the most part, you dictate your own future.
There's a point in most people's careers where they no longer need to be managed. They know their role, they understand their value, and their own personal goals outshine the goals the company has set for them. If you've reached this point, you've already succeeded because you understand that you are in charge of you.
8. You appreciate the success of others.
When you can honestly appreciate the successes of your teammates, you've succeeded. Why? Because you understand that a win for them is a win for the entire team, group, department, or company. It may sound simple, but this is often a difficult thing for people to learn.
9. You love the people around you.
If you love going to work because you love the people you work with, you have definitely found success. For those of you who feel like your co-workers are an extended family, you know exactly what I'm talking about. You care about each other, look out for each other, and know that whatever happens in the future, these people will be life-long friends.
Success means something different to all of us. Maybe the more accurate question we should start asking ourselves is not "Am I successful?" but instead, "Am I happy where I'm at, and where I'm headed?"