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15 Quotes on the Meaning of Success

What is success? Depending on who you ask, success can manifest itself in a number of ways: an oversized bank account, hundreds of thousands of social media followers, or a resume full of accolades and accomplishments. It can also look like a healthy relationship, a stable family life, or finally kicking a harmful habit. The main thing to know is that success is a very individual pursuit. By definition, success is the state of reaching a predetermined aim or goal, so the external praise that we often associate with achievement is actually secondary to that quieter, inner glow of accomplishment.

From time immemorial, philosophers, leaders, artists, and visionaries have all attempted to distill their own formulas for success into relatable sound bites. “I attribute my success to this: I never took nor gave any excuses,” Florence Nightingale once said. Still others have tried to put words to this amorphous concept. Several decades later, Colin Powell echoed similar sentiments, “​​There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure."

Perhaps the one constant that can be found in most every historical figure’s definition of success is a determination to keep going in the face of obstacles and setbacks. They also express an understanding that nothing worthwhile is ever easy; success wouldn’t feel so sweet without some challenges along the way. Here, we’ve compiled 15 quotes from noteworthy individuals who have imparted some lessons and wisdom from their own paths to success.

Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.
— Maya Angelou

Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.
— Thomas Edison

To live the lives we truly want and deserve, and not just the lives we settle for, we need a Third Metric, a third measure of success that goes beyond the two metrics of money and power, and consists of four pillars: well-being, wisdom, wonder, and giving.
— Arianna Huffington

​​Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.
— Henry David Thoreau

Success in life could be defined as the continued expansion of happiness and the progressive realization of worthy goals.
— Deepak Chopra

Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.
— Helen Keller

The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.
— Vidal Sassoon

I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.
— Michael Jordan

Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.
​​— Albert Schweitzer, philosopher

Success is not final; failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.
— Unknown, often attributed to Winston Churchill

The real test is not whether you avoid this failure, because you won't. It's whether you let it harden or shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it; whether you choose to persevere.
— Barack Obama

The road to success is always under construction.
— Lily Tomlin, actress

The key to success is action, and the essential in action is perseverance.
— Sun Yat-sen, Chinese political philosopher

Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.
— Benjamin Franklin

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, college basketball coach

Photo credit: brady_bellini/ Unsplash

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About the Author
Joyce Chen
Joyce Chen is a writer, editor, and community builder based in Seattle, Washington.
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