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How Do We Define Success?

It is not uncommon to strive for success.  Most people want to be successful.  If we are any type of coach we want to have a successful season.  Defining success is difficult.  If you look for a definition, it is clear that there is no defining successconsensus.  The challenge is that success is like beauty, it is in the eye of the beholder.  There is no right answer because each person will determine their own level of success.  The question to be answered is when do we know the moment that we have achieved success?

I don’t know that we can come to agreement on a strict definition of success because each person will have their own idea of what that means.  John Wooden is the success guru, and I use his definition of success as a starting point. 

“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.”  – John Wooden

While I agree with that definition and have used it as the mold for much of my development, I would like to challenge that definition.  It is purposely vague, but I struggle with vague.  I am a math guy.  I like to measure things, and I would like to be able to measure success.  Every year, I have to fill out a sheet at work where I list three goals for my year.  One of the questions asked is “how will you know if you have achieved your goal?”  In many cases, my first answer is “I will know it when I see it.”  

I think success is like a goal.  You have to define it and know when you have achieved it.  However, success is individual.  Depending on your expectations, success for one person may be a failure for another.  I would like to present a few key characteristics of achieving success.

Defining Success

The first step in measuring success as a coach is to understand what it means.  For me, success is dependent on goals.  If we set measurements for achievement and we put every effort into achieving those goals, how can we not be successful?  Those goals could be daily, weekly, monthly and seasonal goals.  There are goals for each player, the team and our own personal goals.  It quickly becomes a broad definition, but without an end in sight, how will we know if we are getting close.

Here is my definition.  Success is something that you achieve, not something that you are.  Success is personal because each of us has our own goals and expectations of ourselves.  Success is achieving what you set out to achieve no matter how big or small. Success is setting goals and giving your best effort to achieve those goals. Each person will embark on their own personal journey towards achieving success, facing many obstacles along the way.

Success in Spite of…

Achieving success is not without challenge.  There will be setbacks along the way, and we will not be able to achieve success without perseverance.

“Success is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.” – Winston Churchill

Without the struggle, there is no appreciation of success, and if you are achieving success without struggle, then it is false success.  However, if there was no struggle, would it even be worth it?

Raising the Bar

I remember years ago watching a presentation on leadership at my former school, and the presenter asked a young man to place a yellow post-it note as high as he possibly could.  He looked at the young man and offered him $10 to put it higher.  The young man succeeded.  He then challenged him to put it even higher for $100 dollars.  Another success.  For $1000 could he put it higher?  Yes he could.  The presenter looked at the young man and reminded him that this started by asking him to put the yellow note as high as he could.  Then with more motivation he found a way to exceed his original achievement.  So why didn’t he put it as high as he could from the beginning?  We must set our bar high, and continually raise the bar.

Don’t lower your expectations to meet your performance. Raise your level of performance to meet your expectations. – Ralph Marston, The Daily Motivator

Expectations will help us define success, and  Without clear expectations, our teams and our players will not be able to achieve their full potential.  The bar should be set just high enough that our teams and players (and ourselves) must extend beyond their comfort level to reach it, and as coaches we should be raising it again.

As I look to define success for myself, I ask the following questions.  Am I making an impact?  Am I still passionate about what I am doing?

Now that we know what success is, the next question to be answered is how do we achieve it?

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About Coach Printz

Jamie Printz has been a full time teacher/coach for over 20 years. Although the majority of his time is dedicated to ice hockey, he also coaches lacrosse and soccer. Coach Printz has had the pleasure of watching over 200 of his athletes move on to play collegiate sports. He works as a skills coach for local youth organizations, works in coaching education and player development at the state level, and is a parent of two young daughters who are beginning their journeys in the world of youth sport.
The 365 Coach © 2015
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