Redefining Success

Geese at Wirth ParkWithin our society the dominant view of success is based on how much money one has, the volume of “output” one generates, or how much power one has over others.  Our world might be very different if the majority of us defined success differently.  For example, the most successful people might be those who walked as lightly upon the earth as possible and consumed the least materially, whole still managing to find engaging and unique ways to live in wonderful comfort.  Success might mean knowing that everything we need will be available when we need it; that we needn’t accumulate and acquire out of fear of not having enough.

Redefining success might mean that the must successful business leaders would be those who put service over self-interest; those who encourage and reward true innovation in marketplace choices instead of simply adding another to the fifty variations on the same theme already available; those who focus intently and deeply on supporting themselves and everyone they touch in becoming more and more human.  Successful leaders would be those who consciously avoid accumulating power over others and consuming natural resources.  Success in leadership would result from skillfully generating power with others and evoking the sacred work of leadership from every person in the organization.

Wirth ParkThe bottom line of successful businesses would still be monetary profit – but only in the context of leaving the physical earth, and all life business touches, not only as good as but better than it was before.  A core responsibility of business would be to generate means and milieu for as many humans as possible to make contributions toward creating a better world.  A successful business would be one that know not only when to stop growing quantitatively, but also how to continue to grow qualitatively.  A primary measure of a successful business would be that it created products that lasted a lifetime or more and wasted nothing in the process.

Some may think such possibilities for redefining success are too far out on the edge; some may think they are obvious.  Both are true.  There are people within our culture who define success in these ways already.  All of this is possible.  It just isn’t easy to achieve within our current agreements and assumptions.


from Chapter 4: It’s All in Our Minds, Leadership in a Challenging World: A Sacred Journey by Barbara Shipka, pp. 44-45.

Photos taken at Bassett Creek, Theodore Wirth Park, Minneapolis © Barbara Shipka 2010

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