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Hands up if you’re semi-addicted to stories of successful people and businesses. I know I am. I want to peel back the cover of all my favorite businesses. How did they achieve success? What did they do to get where they are?

We all want to get paid on time and earn the big bucks. We all want to live our dreams. There are many roads to the top of the mountain. We’ve all read stories of the CEO who worked 17 hour days for the first three years, or the founder who slept in their office. They achieved huge success- but at what cost?

This is not a dress rehearsal. Each day you spend missing your kids’ soccer games, or not returning your mother’s phone call is a day you won’t get back. And while success is the goal, it is not a guarantee. So is it time to reframe your definition of success?

What Does Success Look Like To You?

When I first started freelance writing, success looked like getting enough clients to quit my day job and freelance full time. It took me about six months to build my client roster and save enough that I felt comfortable making the leap.

Quitting my job was a moment of success. I was able to do something I loved full time. I was my own boss. Even though my income hadn’t skyrocketed, even though I was still hustling every month, I was a successful writer.

Likewise, these days I feel it’s a marker of success when I get paid on time and have clients that I like working for. Doing good work for clients I enjoy and who see fit to pay me on time is part of my definition of success.

Reading all those stories about people who have climbed to the top of the mountain can make it seem like millions of dollars and a cover of Forbes is the only way to define success. That’s not true. Success can look many different ways. You don’t need to follow someone else’s exact footsteps and live their life. What does it look like to you?

How Are You Attaining Success?

Take a look at how you spend your time. It’s important to put in hard work on the job front, don’t get me wrong. I am the first one to tell you that nothing works unless you do.

Are you working at the expense of other parts of your life, like your family or your health? How you attain success is just as important as what you do when you get there. Instead of building an empire in a manner that makes you unhealthy, unhappy, and possibly an unpleasant person to be around, stay true to your definition of success.

If it takes you a little longer to reach your dream income number or your dream client roster, but you’ve enjoyed the time it takes you to get there, how can you say you’ve failed? Life is so much more than an income number.

Your definition of success is the only one that matters. As addicted as I am to the stories of how other people did it, I want to carve my own path to the top of that mountain. Maybe I’ll see you on the way up.


Kara Perez is the founder of Bravely, a company that connects women and money. She freelances in the areas of personal finance and travel, and she eats peanut butter straight out of the jar.

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