WHAT IS SUCCESS? This is an important question to reflect upon when considering your professional life. Don’t be surprised if a clear definition doesn’t come to mind right away. You are not alone. Try asking 10 people what success is, and you’ll get 10 different answers. It’s a powerful word with an elusive meaning. At least on the surface, it appears that it takes a life of its own across different cultures and generations. Without a concise definition, how could you determine whether you are successful or on track for success?
When faced with a question you can’t quite wrap your head around, it’s natural to look elsewhere for answers. Let’s explore and illustrate this concept with a simple example. Are you tall? If a clear definition of being tall doesn’t come to mind, you’ll immediately start comparing yourself with people you know or care about. This is because you are in search of a point of reference to measure yourself against others, all in hopes of discovering a satisfying response to the question at hand.
When you ask questions about success, instead of looking for answers externally, you should look for answers internally. Otherwise, you fall into the trap of adopting an incorrect, subjective, or biased definition in your thought process about success.
Take a minute to compare yourself with the famous Roman emperor, Julius Cesar. He was a great military strategist and the leader of one of the largest empires ever known to man. Would you say that Cesar was successful? If you could ask him, what do you think he’d say? Be mindful that he was stabbed 23 times and assassinated by some of his closest allies. Compared to him, would you deem yourself successful?
Maybe you think a comparison with someone who died over 2,067 years ago is far-fetched, or even silly, to say the least. So, let’s try again as you take another minute to compare yourself to a 30-year-old CEO of a technology company named in Forbes as the world's youngest female self-made billionaire. Would you say she’s successful? I just described Elizabeth Holmes. If you could ask her, what do you think she’d say? Be mindful that she was sent to prison to serve an 11-year sentence for fraud, away from her two kids and husband. Are you successful compared to her?
The problem with comparing yourself to others is that everyone wants something different in life. You rarely have enough information about others to accurately assess how they feel about their accomplishments. We all have different goals. Since personal goals are the main drivers of the pursuit of success, you are the only one who can determine whether you’re successful.
At first thought, historically important individuals like Julius Cesar and corporate titans like Steve Jobs all seem to fit the “idea of success.” They are certainly inspiring, but for most of us, following in their footsteps or relating to their lives might not be possible. Most of us just want to be ourselves.
That’s why I wrote this book.
While many books discuss success, I struggle to recommend one that hits home for the average person. People like you and me. To be successful, you don’t have to change the world, be rich, or be famous. Success isn’t an aspirational, elusive, or impossible idea. There’s a clear path to success that everyone can follow. I’ll delve into these topics in depth through this book.
Within these pages, you’ll find lessons from my life and stories about people I’ve met—from close friends, to presidents, to a former drug cartel member—all of whom inspired me in my pursuit of success. The Five Doors of Success describes a systemized approach that includes the critical steps to success. This approach, which I adopted, enabled me to grow in my career from a minimum-wage job to a C-level executive role.
IS YOUR CAREER ON THE RIGHT TRACK FOR SUCCESS?
If your answer is anything but a resounding yes, you’re not alone; most people feel the same way you do. It doesn’t matter whether your career is just starting or whether you’re thinking about making a professional change after years in the field. It’s normal to have doubts about professional success, even when you might be on track. But if most people feel this way, why are so few individuals comfortable openly sharing or acknowledging these doubts?
People are open to vulnerability in many aspects of their lives, but not regarding success. It’s not surprising for someone searching for love to post on social media about their struggles, or chat with their closest friend looking for comfort or advice. You’d expect most people to be concerned with their health and routinely seek help from doctors, fitness trainers, nutritionists, and even plan for the worst with health insurance. Why treat success differently? Compared to these other aspects of your life, it feels like an intangible, abstract concept. It’s certainly something you want, but you don’t think about it often, and probably don’t have a concise plan to achieve it. You’re likely private about it and don’t jump at the opportunity to share your struggles with others. Again, if this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. The problem doesn’t stem from you, nor does it seem from the definition of success itself. Rather, it has to do with misconceptions ingrained in society.
Consider history. When you closely examine any human doctrine, from ancient philosophies to religions and even principles of government, you will find that the concept of success is always present and plays an important role in their existence. Why? Because you can’t decouple success from human nature. It’s about personal fulfillment, regardless of the specifics of what it entails. For instance, Confucianism, a philosophy originating from ancient China, frames success in relation to your role in society, emphasizing moral and ethical behaviors. In the Quran—the basis of Islam and the religious practice of a quarter of the world’s population—success is framed in terms of your civic and religious duties, with a focus on spiritual and moral behaviors. The U.S. Declaration of Independence frames success as an independent nation by establishing protections for the basic rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These examples originate from timeless, unchanging sources, while professional success is framed based on the subjective and evolving view of society.
The word “success” originates from the Latin word “succedere,” which means to “come close after.” Experts haven’t been able to pinpoint the word’s first use in English literature, but the general consensus is that it happened sometime in the 15th century. Surprisingly, its original meaning had nothing to do with outcomes, whether good or bad. Goals also didn’t have anything to do with the word success. Originally, success described the manner in which a thing happened or the manner in which a series of events unfolded. So, it had to do more with the question of “when” rather than “if” something was going to happen. It referred to the timing and the way something transpired. This was made clear, for instance, in the succession of an heir or in the formation of troops, determining who took precedence. So, it seems like in the last 400 years, success went from certainty to impossibility, but how the word is being used today boils down to semantics.
I’m not here to say that you can be successful. I have a feeling that you already know that. Instead, I’m here to explain why you have doubts, and more importantly, what to do about it. I’m not going to hand out a mysterious map where “X” marks the treasure, but I’ll offer you a clear strategy to follow instead. I’ll show you the simplest way to shift from your current career stage toward maximizing your full potential.
During a 20-year career in technology, I’ve systematically deconstructed success into five critical areas, or what I call the “Five Doors of Success.” These doors represent different steps along the journey to the success you’re looking for, and I’m going to show you how to find and open them. Everyone’s path is slightly different, but I’ll explain the road ahead using my example of professional success that took me from a minimum wage job to a corporate executive. Everything in this journey is free and available to you. After you understand the path in front of you and commit to your journey, you will restore the original meaning of the word success, and without a doubt, it will become about “when” rather than “if.”
The introduction continues…