Would you consider yourself successful if the startup company you built from scratch was acquired by a tech giant for 10 million dollars?

How about changing your car’s oil by yourself? Would that make you feel like a successful person?

Let’s say you were offered 50 million dollars to sell your company last year but you didn’t accept it. Then they lowered the price to 10 million dollars this year. You decided to accept this new offer because your profit margin is shrinking. In this case, selling your company wouldn’t be a success story. 

Think about Yahoo’s story. Microsoft wanted to buy Yahoo for 45 billion dollars in 2008. Yahoo said “No”. In 2016, Verizon bought Yahoo for 5 billion dollars. Was this sale a success for Yahoo?

On the other hand, think about changing your car’s oil by yourself. Let’s say you used to pay a car dealer once or twice a year for an oil change. This creates a dependency in your life and it also costs time and money. However, if you learn how to do it by yourself, the cost of time and money goes down significantly. Additionally, you have less dependency on others and you feel more confident. This is an accomplishment. You are successful.

On the contrary, we often think we are successful while we are actually not. We want to be successful. We want to feel like we achieved what we wanted. This feeling causes bias that favors us when we evaluate our actions.

If you think you are making wrong judgments about what you call success or failure, do a gut check. Pause and think about how you are feeling in regards to the project. Do you have butterflies in your stomach? Do you feel like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders? Do you feel more confident? Are you pumped up for going after more ambitious projects? If the answers to these questions are “Yes”, you were successful in that project.

If you feel like that was just another task you completed and if you don’t feel celebration vibes, that wasn’t a success. That was just another task you took care of.

A simple trick to find out if you did a great job

After completing a project, do you want to go back to see the outcome? Even after you move forward with other projects, do you feel an urge to see what you did in that project? Do you enjoy seeing your finished product? Having “Yes” as the answer to these questions means you did a great job. Congratulations!

If you designed a logo for a client, do you like going back to the old project folder and looking at that logo again and again?

If you performed a scene, do you like watching the reel of that scene even after months?

If you posted a photo on Instagram, do you like checking that photo in your timeline every once in a while?

If you cooked a dish, do you want to take a photo of it and share it with others?

If you accepted a job offer, do you like thinking about the interview and offer negotiation process even after a long time?

If your answers are positive, it means you were successful.