Literature Paper on The Definition of Success

The objective of any individual in the society is to engage in different activities that will grant him or her success in life. There are numerous definitions of success depending on the aims and objectives of an individual within a particular society. This means that there is no universal definition of success although the existing definitions attribute success to the realization of a goal.

In the book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell adopts a contrarian perspective of the techniques through which people in the society attain high-level success. According to Gladwell, Knowledge, skills, and hard works are critical components of success, but it also requires great influence by an individual’s ecology. This means that in the definition of success it is important to look beyond individual merits. This will require an in-depth assessment of other areas that are associated with an individual such as his or her friends, family background, what an individual’s parents did for a living and the socialization processes that defend the life of an individual. For Gladwell, it is only by asking questions about the background of an individual that it will be easier to unravel the logic behind the definition of a successful person. In Outliers, Gladwell engages in an elaborate study of the path to success of different groups and people in different fields such as the Beatles, Bill Gates, Amadeus Mozart, and Andrew Carnegie among other with the objective of understanding the factors that drove them to their envisioned success. In his conclusion about the factors that distinguished them from other in terms of achievement, Gladwell asserts that it was not in their extraordinary talent but the extraordinary opportunities that these individuals exploited.

Success in the view of Gladwell is, therefore, a product of “parentage and patronage” (Gladwell 20) considering that while it may be possible to consider successful people to be basing their achievement on personal qualities. It is important to consider the years of advantage and opportunities that other individuals in the society do not share, which were critical for their learning and growth. This further indicates that for an individual to be successful it is possible that he or she got help along the way that provided them with special opportunities for seizing success. This does not mean that success is a product of lucky breaks. Instead, it is the ability of an individual to recognize and seize his or her opportunities for personal development. Gladwell observes that there are assertions of the relationship between success and intelligence. He recognizes that the relationship between success and intelligence works only to a certain point (Gladwell 69). This is followed by a faint correlation between intelligence and achievement because success requires practical intelligence, which will provide an individual with the knowledge of what to say, when to say it, and how to say it with the aim of ensuring that it produces maximum effects. These aspects cannot be gauged in terms of an individual’s intelligence quotient (IQ).

In his further deliberations in the definition of success, Gladwell asserts that it is not a product of random effects. Instead, success arises from a predictable and powerful set of opportunities and circumstances. This means that in most cases for an individual to realize success he or she must not only focus on his or her abilities but also on attitude and motivating aspects. When an individual sets out to achieve goals, the driving factors must influence his understanding and desires towards accomplishing the objective. There must be indicators of the envisioned success because they will motivate him or her towards realizing the vision further. Gladwell implies that success is a function of willingness and persistence to work hard towards realizing an objective when most people are giving up. The ability to stand out from a crowd of people who do not have the necessary drive towards an objective is critical to the definition of success. In addition, it also provides an opportunity for understanding an individual’s weaknesses and strengths and to use in this understanding to develop novel ways of attaining the demand of a vision.

The input of an individual is critical in defining success because even if the right opportunities were made available and an individual was unwilling to seize them, then it would be relatively difficult to succeed. Gladwell, therefore, defines success as a combination of the right ecology, practical intelligence, extraordinary opportunities, skills and knowledge, hard work and is notable that these elements may not be available for an individual in any society in equal proportion. In the view of Gladwell, the major elements of this formula of defining success are the essence of ecology and the ability to recognize and seize opportunities whenever they present themselves. Successful people are not entirely different from the rest of the society but they are products of legacy and opportunity or community and history. Their success is not in any way mysterious but it is founded on a network of inheritances and advantages, which are critical in making them the people they become (Gladwell 285).

In his definition of success, Gladwell recognizes that the society has played a critical role in redefining and developing misleading conceptions about success. This is because through the media the society dedicates a lot of attention to those who are perceived as materially successful while dismissing those who fall. For the modern society, wealth is displayed as a sign of success although this is a misleading approach because it only places focus on the material belonging of an individual without an assessment of how the individual acquired the wealth. When I was 6 years old, my father asked me what I wanted to become when I grew up. I gave a stereotypical response by a 6-year-old, which included things like a baseball player and an engineer. He then asked me what I understood by the term success. My response to this question was that success was equal to being a businessman. While it is possible to assume this response as one coming from an incompetent first-grader, it also communicates a critical aspect of how the society defines success. To most of my friends, making tons of money is considered as being successful. This explains why even at 6 years old I have been socialized to believe that being successful would entail owning a big business, wearing an expensive suit and driving an expensive car. Being informed I had derived my answer to the question for the society in which I lived.

Today my answer to the same question is completely different because years of experience in the world and through interactions with people from different communities I have come to understand that success surpasses material possession. Success entails the ability to engage in practices that are defined by attain a goal that impact the lives of others. This is because I believe that each individual in the world is responsible for himself and others. It is this aspect of responsibility that drives different people towards developing improve life standards in the society. An individual in the field of medicine can be perceived to be successful if he or she uses his or her skills in transforming the lives of others. This means that the medical personnel can engage in research initiatives to develop improved ways of addressing community illnesses. A businessman can engage in activities with the objective of improving the quality of services or products that are distributed to his or her customer. It is notable that the difference between a successful and unsuccessful individual is on their ability to abide by existing ethical standards whenever they are realizing their objectives. If an individual acquires wealth through corrupt mean that negatively affect the lives of other members of the society, then he or she may be considered as unsuccessful. This means that success is about ethics and the desire to uphold the principle of humanity in all deliberations. Therefore, it is the responsibility of individuals to ensure that they follow the existing quality standards and limit the possibility of being exploitative in the process of identifying and seizing opportunities in their environment. When these attributes are transmitted down the subsequent generations it becomes possible to develop a society in which empathy is considered as the standard of operations since it will require upholding ethical regulations in all deliberations.


Works Cited

Gladwell, Malcolm. Outliers: The Story of Success. London: Penguin, 2009. Print