The Ultimate Definition of Success

The Ultimate Definition of Success

From birth, we have a desire to succeed. A baby is desperate to crawl. Once they’ve learned to crawl, they’re full steam to master walking like mom and dad do every day. Walking turns to running. Running to jumping. As we get older, our goals and definitions of success change and evolve. And success may mean something different to one person than it does to another. But is there a universal key that can unlock success? Are there specifics that thought and business leaders seem to agree are necessary to be a success?


 Let’s start with the dictionary’s definition:

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines success as:

1 obsolete : OUTCOME, RESULT

2a : degree or measure of succeeding

b : favorable or desired outcome

also : the attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence

3 : one that succeeds


Story time.

Noah Webster, the Webster in Merriam-Webster, wanted to create a truly comprehensive dictionary that went further than any previous work.

"The starting point of all achievement is desire."
-Napoleon Hill, self-help author

Webster spent two decades studying the etymology of words, their regional variations, pronunciations, and spellings. Two decades.

"Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you."
- Oprah Winfrey, Oprah

Passion is energy


He learned 26 languages to help him accomplish the monumental task of compiling a 70,000-word compendium and to understand their origins and all their possible definitions and usages.

"Successful people do what unsuccessful people are not willing to do. Don't wish it were easier; wish you were better." - Jim Rohn, entrepreneur, author, speaker

Don't wish it were easier; wish you were better


In 1828, at the age of 70, yes, 70, Noah Webster finally published “A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language.”

“You must be very patient, very persistent. The world isn’t going to shower gold coins on you just because you have a good idea. You’re going to have to work like crazy to bring that idea to the attention of people.” - Herb Kelleher – Southwest Airlines Founder

And after this astonishing effort, dedication and patience willing this dictionary into existence, sales were dismal. Webster was forced to mortgage his home and take on a great deal of debt. It was not, according to his dictionary, a success.

"Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don't quit." - Conrad Hilton, American hotelier and the founder of the Hilton Hotels chain

But Webster didn’t quit. He didn’t give up on his passion and created a second edition of his dictionary. It was published in two volumes and sold well. Fast forward to today, where Merriam-Webster dictionary business is still going. Hot tip – they have a pretty great Twitter account!

While the Merriam-Webster Dictionary gives us the definition of success, the story of Noah Webster and the philosophies of many successful leaders give us the keys.

The desire to succeed.
The passion for a project.
The patience and 
persistence to keep going.
And the drive to not quit when there are setbacks.


Do you see those qualities in yourself, your team and the leaders you admire?

Maybe it was Vidal Sassoon that said it best, 
"The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary."

About the Author

Amy Kelley

Amy is the Global Digital Content Marketing Editor at GES. With a strong background in content marketing, social media, and communications, she is a passionate writer and self-confessed word geek. She is also the founder of a non-profit and a health and wellness online community.

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