The Two Elements of True Success

What is your definition of success?

Your answer to this question is important because it determines how you approach life. It becomes the basis of your decision-making.

Many people define success as being wealthy and/or famous. They think that someone who is wealthy is more successful than those who aren’t. As a result, making money becomes their priority. They might even sacrifice other things such as health or family.

Wealth and fame, however, is the wrong definition of success.

A while back, there was a neurosurgeon named Paul Kalanithi who was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Facing his mortality, he wrote a popular essay in which he said:

Money, status, all the vanities the preacher of Ecclesiastes described, hold so little interest: a chasing after wind, indeed.

The fact is, these things just don’t matter at the end. Having them as your definition of success means building your life on a precarious foundation. You could end up having a lifetime regret.

What then is the right definition of success? What then is true success?

In my opinion, true success consists of two elements:

1. Contribution.

Many people measure success by what they get rather than what they give. But I believe that the right measure of success is your contribution. It’s what you give rather than what you get. As I wrote in my post about meaningful life, meaning comes from contributing to a cause that matters to you.

Yes, you still need to get something to live your life. But the point here is that you should give more than what you get.

2. Balance.

The second element is balance. You can get all the wealth and fame you want, but if your life is not balanced, then you aren’t successful.

Balance here is the balance between the five aspects of life: work, health, learning, social, and spiritual. Many people pay attention to just one or two of them, but true success requires the balance of all five.

There are those who seem wildly successful on the outside but feel empty inside or have a broken family. Don’t be like them. Keep your life balanced.


Combining the two elements above, true success comes from contributing to a cause that matters to you in a balanced way.

If your life is balanced, and you contribute to a cause that matters to you, then you are successful.


  1. Susan Mary Malone
    Susan Mary Malone

    I love this, Donald. Especially: “But I believe that the right measure of success is your contribution. It’s what you give rather than what you get.”

    Yes! Now THAT measures success.
    Thank you for this!

  2. Hi Mr. donald, your writing is blessing for me, I’m reading from last some months. Just coz of u I change my decision of suicide. …I learn how to cope in life. Thanks a lot…. plz keep writing.

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