I was reflecting on “success”, or at least the general concept of what we normally refer to as a success. There are the successes (victories, achieved goals) that we experience daily, but that is not what I am actually thinking about. I was really considering our general definition of success as a whole – which kind of people do I consider to be successful.

So firstly, by ‘successful’ we mean that a person has ‘made it’, and our general perception of them is that they have achieved something that we aspire to. And it is here that I found myself faced with having to consider two kinds (at its very basic) levels of success.

There is firstly the more obvious evidence of success, such as a house (big and luxurious), a car (name brand), the right clothing, job, and of course a happy relationship (preferably a family). With the exception of the last, this definition of success focusses purely on materialistic achievements. Together with these will be authority and power. However, there is a second level of success that comes into play as well, and this level is measured mostly against ethics and morals. In other words, is the person under the magnifying glass loving, caring, kind, generous, has a high moral standard, is ethical and is just?

It was then I realised that the second level of success (if you would allow me to use that label) is far more important than the first. The process of acquiring stuff is relatively easy, and with some good investments one can be set for success all the way. However, those aspects related to our character is sometimes far harder to achieve. In each case practice is key – that process of failing until success is achieved. But if you work primarily on the character aspects of success then the “stuff” will happen as a matter of course. John Hays Hammond hit the nail on the head: “Character is the real foundation of all worthwhile success.”

So which level of success do you aspire towards? What do you consider more important? Do you agree with John?