What Does It Mean To Be Successful?

Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful. Albert Schweitzer

What does it really mean to be successful?  What does a successful life look like? When you say “I want to be successful”, what does that mean?  Is it to become rich, or have a prestigious career?  Is it fame and social status? When you say “I want to be successful”, what does that mean?

For many of us, success seems elusive.  We see success as having a nice house, expensive cars, a large bank account, the prestigious job.  I have none of those things so does that make me a failure? I am a single father who has raised two boys for 15 years now. Sometimes I worked two jobs, other times I worked full time while going to school at night.  There were also times  where I was unemployed for up to six months, all while managing my home and my family.  I stared depression and impoverishment in the face while raising my sons to be respectful men. I made it through all of that, but because I lack money and prestige, does that make me a failure?

So, again I ask.  What is Success?

All For The Love Of Money.

“Money cannot buy peace of mind. It cannot heal ruptured relationships, or build meaning into a life that has none.” Richard M. DeVos

Let’s talk about cash.  For many, success is about how much money they earn.  Earning a great deal of money can buy things such as the big house and fancy cars, which I won’t pretend aren’t nice. And yes, being broke doesn’t buy happiness (or anything else). Still, the question persists, can money buy true happiness and does money equal success?  To some the response is yes, success is measured in dollar signs, and dollars are all that matters. Accumulate as much wealth as possible, by any means necessary.  How many times have you seen stories of celebrities, who seem to have the world, yet are miserable?  Just take a look at the checkout lane at the grocery store. Magazines are full of stories of celebrity divorce, depression, and even suicide.  All the money in the universe could not buy them peace.

There were times where I would lay awake at night, worrying about money. Or should I say the lack of it.  I would often say, “If I just made this much more, I would be happy.” But is that true?  If I were to have more, would I be satisfied, or would I only want more? What point is it to live a king, yet die a fool?  Success, without happiness, isn’t success at all. And all the money in the world cannot buy true happiness. For me, success and happiness come from obedience to Christ and abiding by the teachings of the bible. When I study my bible, pray, live a life I know is right, I feel better and I am happy.  When I don’t, things seem to go wrong.

Unfortunately, the love of money has even penetrated many churches in the form of a false “Gospel of Prosperity”.  Where people are told they can measure the success of their “spiritual life”, by the amount of their “material wealth”, they accumulate, masked as “blessings”. They are taught a message of comfort and luxury, where paying your tithes is more important than salvation, where living your best life now is more important than preparing for eternity, or that you cannot witness God’s love without opening your wallet.

Many people are led astray by a false Gospel of Prosperity.

Many people are led astray by this belief, like sheep led by the wolf, to the slaughter.  People are provoked to give as much as possible just to ensure they get more in return as if playing a form of spiritual lottery.  However, the only person that becomes wealthy is the false teacher prompting people to give or be “cursed with a curse”. It is absolutely absurd to think you can measure a person’s spiritual life by their level of material gain. Just as it is equally absurd to believe you can measure a person’s level of success in the same manner. Btw, if a church is ALWAYS prompting you to pay 10% of your GROSS pay and take up numerous “love offerings” leave!


1 Timothy 6:9-10

  1. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
  2. for the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

The Love of Social Status and Prestige.

While some see money as the measure of success, others look for the approval of others to measure success.  In a world fixated on the superficial, social status is often an obsession for many.  Social media has merely added fuel to this fire because people value their self-worth by things such as likes, shares or re-tweets. When real life isn’t what we want it to be, we can create an online persona to make it look like everything is perfect. The more followers, comments, or likes we get, the happier we are.

The need to be well known and popular is so strong that many will go out their way to do anything necessary to achieve popularity. We see our favorite celebrities wearing a certain brand of clothes or shoes, so we have to play the part of the rat following the Pied Piper directly to the store to spend money they don’t have, in order to impress others.  More concerned with how we look to other people than they are about things that really matter, Things like a savings account, rent, food, and for some their kids.

For others, success is measured by prestige.  Their happiness and self-worth is bound to their title or the letters behind their name.  They have no work life balance because life is all about their career.  The need to climb as high as possible, as fast as possible, even at the cost of family. When you have a spouse that is lonely, children that never see you, but a job making a ton of money, is that success?  You can have more degrees than a thermometer, and still not be smart enough to know that your family is suffering.  Not suffering financially, but suffering emotionally.  Remember, success in work without success at home isn’t success at all.

What is success?

As I stated before, depending on who you ask, you may get a different answer.  For me, success is knowing I am a father that didn’t leave his children but raised them to be respectful men. Success is adhering to biblical principles and not permitting myself to compromise them.  Success is knowing I have a close circle of friends, many of which I call my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Joshua 1:8

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.

Am I saying there is something wrong with having material wealth or prestige?  Having these things can allow you to do things you can’t do if you have none. I am not going to be one of these people that says having money or prestige is bad because it isn’t.  Trust me, I wouldn’t mind a little more in my account right now. Nevertheless, I don’t have these things rule my spirit or my level of happiness.  I recognize that money is more easily lost than won.  That a job can be lost or a business can change depending on the consumer.  Things can and will change. Riches are deceitful and often give a false sense of security.  My security is in Christ, and my success is in following his teaching.  As long as I continue the course, finish the race set out before me, I am successful.

Terrell Cotton

Terrell Cotton is a motivational blogger and a full-time single father of two boys who are his heart and soul.  His blog, Terrellcotton.com, is dedicated to helping men become better versions of themselves by planting the seeds for authentic manhood, fatherhood, and entrepreneurship.





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