Figuring Out the True Meaning of Success

Tick tock, tick tock. Your clock is ticking. From the moment you ended the previous chapter, your time has begun. Time to focus and take your first steps towards a clear roadmap for living a life filled with success.

In the previous chapter, we did several important things — we created a timeline of your life and showed where stand on it today. We calculated how much time you have left to reach towards success and happiness and make your life extraordinary. Most importantly, we asked a question: what must happen in this span of time for you to say, “I had a successful life?”

Everyone knows what success feels like. As a schoolchild, you felt it when your exam results came out and you learnt that you had ranked first in your class. It is that ecstatic feeling you had when you worked up the courage to propose marriage to someone you loved — and were accepted. It is the joy of receiving a meritorious service award in your office for performance above and beyond the call of duty. It is a glow you feel on learning that you have been nominated to receive the Bharat Ratna, the country’s highest recognition, for your contribution to the arts.

But what is success in life? Is success becoming a billionaire? Is success being the first man (or woman) on Mars? Is success being world famous? If you are wondering what exactly success is, then you are in good company. As I researched this topic, I realised that people, especially successful people, exemplify success in different ways. Not everyone defines success in one sentence. Many of them just go ahead and — succeed. They leave it for others to figure out how to define it.

Steve Jobs, arguably one of the most successful men of our times, spent his childhood and youth stumbling seemingly without direction — dropping out of courses he didn’t like, studying calligraphy for no reason, seeking spiritualism in India, learning meditation, tinkering with computers. But we all know him for his one planet-changing success — the creation of a computer called the Macintosh and a company called Apple, which has touched every life on the planet.

Richard Branson, widely regarded as a maverick and successful billionaire, would not have been considered anything but a failure by anyone who’d seen him in his early years. His first company, Virgin Records, was a failure. His airline, Virgin Atlantic, nearly crashed before it took off. Branson life seemed to be a parade of great ideas doomed to fail. Yet today, he is ranked among the world’s most successful and bold entrepreneurs.

Albert Einstein, whose mind and thinking have changed the way we see ourselves and the universe was, incredibly, an abject failure in his young life. He suffered speech difficulties till he was four, was expelled from school for being a trouble-maker and failed the admission test to the Swiss Federal Polytechnic School in Zurich. He was openly considered to be a failure in life. He was profoundly unhappy at work in his job as an insurance salesman.

Yet in 1921, he won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921, and gave the world the General Theory of Relativity. He said he regarded every success as a failure in progress.

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, lost his job, was defeated for legislature, failed in business, suffered a nervous breakdown, was defeated for Speaker, defeated for nomination for Congress, was elected to Congress but lost renomination, was rejected for the position of Land Officer, defeated for Senate, defeated for nomination for Vice-President, and again defeated for Senate. Yet in 1860 he was elected president of the United States and is remembered with respect and awe for his leadership.

These are only four stories, and certainly there are many more in the same genre. The world’s most successful people — its inventors, its businessmen, its presidents, sportsmen, writers and others — seem to follow different journeys towards amazing success. When you look closely at the lives of those whom we consider to be successful, we do notice several shared traits.

1. They all had a vision, and a sense of mission. Whether they stated it or not, whether they wrote it on paper and referred to it every day or not, all successful people seemed to be guided by an inner light, a vision of what they wanted to be, and an understanding of why. Failures were just steps along the way to success.

2. They were driven to achieve goals that would make their visions come true. Steve Jobs created the Macintosh, but that was only the beginning. He created Apple, he gave the world the iPhone, the iPad, he revolutionized the art of computer animation with Pixar.

3. All of them were doers. They moved towards their goals by doing things and taking action steps, Sometimes the actions were faltering and clumsy and did not succeed, such as with Richard Branson, but eventually, all of them saw success for their efforts.

A vision, a mission, goals and action. When we look closely, this is the common thread we discover in those whom we regard as successful. Can we learn from this and formulate a definition if success that we can use in this book? Yes we can.

What is success?

The dictionary gives us a simple, clear meaning for the word — Success is the accomplishment of an aim or purpose. We could unpack this a little and say: Success is when you achieve something you wanted to achieve.

When you wake up in the morning, you have the goal or aim of brushing your teeth, so success would be when you brush your teeth well. You want to rank in the top five of the MBBS examinations, so success would be when you achieve that.

My purpose in this chapter is to propose a definition of success that goes deeper and allows you to confidently move towards it — Success lies in understanding who you are and where you stand — and deciding where you want to go, why you want to go there and finally, to start progressing towards it.

This definition prompts us to break the journey towards success into a 5-step process: Reflection, Vision, Mission, Goals and Action Plan.

1 Reflection: This step calls for deep introspection, to ask yourself questions about yourself: Who are you at this moment in your life? What is your life like at this point in your life? Where do you stand on the timeline of your own life? We will explore this is depth in Chapter 3, the next chapter.

2 Vision: You have the rest of your life ahead of you — what would you like your journey to be? What is your destination? Can you say, with absolute clarity, what must happen in the remaining span of your life so that you can say at the end, “I had a successful life”? We will explore this is depth in Chapter 4.

3 Mission: What motivates you on your journey? Why do you want to go on this particular journey? This asks you to reflect on your inner drive and purpose, the reason you even want to go somewhere in life, the reason you want to be successful in one or many things. We will explore this is depth in Chapter 5.

4 Goals: With your Vision and Mission clarified, this steps takes you into a world of detail, in which you systematically create goals, small, medium and large, that will take you towards achieving your Vision. Each goal is a milestone, and each milestone brings you nearer your destination. We will explore this is depth in Chapter 6.

5 Action Plan: In this step, we will inspect each goal in granular detail, and list specific actions that you must complete to achieve success in that goal. I call this an Action Plan, and clearly, you will have as many Action Plans as you have Goals. We will explore this is depth in Chapter 7.

These five steps, and the detailed lifelong master plan that they will give you are only the beginning. You can have a detailed plan for how to reach the moon but you will actually get there once the rocket takes off and makes the journey. Therefore continuous execution, continuous progress, continuous movement from goal to goal — these are the pre-requisites of achieving success.

I will not tell you that this is an easy process or that it is the only time you will do it. Planning for success is the most important thing you will do in your life, and nothing is more vital than getting that plan right. At the end of the process, though, you will be crystal clear about your Goals in each important area of life going forward. Each Goal will be broken down meticulously into actions that will give you an Action Plan.

11 Areas of Success

Life is a big canvas. Even the humblest of lives has different dimensions. For many family life and work life are two giant dimensions. Yet even they would have other areas to pay attention to, such as health, wealth, friendships, marriage and so on. In this book, we will see life as having 11 important success areas, each of them requiring time, attention and work.




Inner Fulfilment

Personal development




Financial Independence

Social influence

Giving back

To put it in the simplest terms, success in life would be success in all these 11 areas. Sounds like a tall order? Perhaps it is, and yet these are areas in which we exist whether we like it or not. Creating Goals and an Action Plan in each of the 11 areas, and then systematically executing them, creating progress and achievements in each of them, is the way forward towards a life that will feel rounded and filled with success in its deepest sense.

Not easy, I know. Some people get trapped in workaholism, and neglect other areas such as health, friendships, marriage or family. Others squander their time away with friends, to the detriment of everything else. The best among us become very good at striking a balance between these areas, nurturing each area so that it thrives and enriches their life.

Progress and achievements in the goals of the 11 areas, and a reasonable balance between them is where would like to be. I know, that sounds like a perfect life, and none among us is perfect. The best you can do is to try your best — to strive towards balance in the 11 areas, while making sure you have clearly articulated success goals in each of them, and are making steady progress with achievements.

I’d like to share below some illustrative examples of what Goals might look like in each success area.

Success Area



To live a healthy and long life.


To have a billion dollars in the bank.


To have a life partner to die for, with a happy and joyful family, wonderful relatives, loyal friends and associates.

Inner Fulfilment

To pursue your passion.

To spend time with children and giving them your best lessons.

Personal Development

To learn new things continuously.


To live in a mansion with a huge estate.

To travel a lot and enjoy social occasions..

To own the best cars, party a lot and enjoy vacations in exotic places.


To have a fast-growing career in a successful company.


To run a fast-growing business.

Financial Independency

To have enough money so that you never have to work for a living any more.

Social Influence

To be well regarded and sought out by successful and intelligent people.

Joy of Giving Back to the Society

To do something to make this world a better place for others to live.

A life of continuous successes

Perhaps you will now be thinking: so, when do the successes start? They start the very day you start executing your Action Plan. Remember my short definition of success — when you achieve something you wanted to achieve? The Action Plan is a lifetime list of things that you want to achieve. Each time you complete one of those actions, you reach a destination you set for yourself and move a step closer to your Goal.

The Action Plan will include things you must do every day, things you must do weekly, monthly, annual and at other intervals. Some are daily success destinations, some are weekly, some are monthly or yearly, and some even longer. Some are repetitive, some are once-in-a-lifetime, some are material and visible and some are intangible and private.

Imagine your life as a graph in which there is a colored line for each important area of your life, such as Career, Family, Wealth, Friendships, and so on. You already know that there are 11 such Life Areas. Imagine now that each successfully completed action in a life area is a peak in that line. Some peaks will be small ones, but every now and then, you will achieve a Goal, and that will be a bigger peak. When you achieve a Mission, you will see an even larger spike in your graph.

Success is a continuous process. One success leads to another success and a set of successes lead to greater and bigger successes. The highest spike in the graph will of course be when you achieve your Vision. But by then your Vision may have evolved into an even higher vision with new goals and actions. And so it goes, a never ending string of successes.

Myths about success

People have sometimes misleading or erroneous ideas about success. Some have lingering questions. I’d like to address some of them here.

1 Looking successful does not always mean being successful. Sometimes when you see a person living in a villa, owning several topline cars, owning vast properties with millions of dollars in bank account, you might conclude that you are looking at an extremely successful person.

But if you look at the same person through the filter of the 11 success areas of life, you would realize that you are looking at success in only the areas of wealth, financial independence and lifestyle. There are 8 other success areas about which you have no idea — including friendships, family, inner fulfilment, health, personal development and others. Perhaps the person is in poor health, has a rocky marriage, suffers from addiction problems, feels lonely, and does not sleep well at night because of stress. Would you still call such a person super-successful?

Tru success in life requires a holistic approach and a genuine, sincere attempt to gain achievements in all the 11 success areas of life.

2 Success can be private and invisible and still be a success. Many people ask me, “Is it a success if others can’t see it?” The answer is a clear Yes. Imagine a personal fight to overcome an addiction such as smoking or drinking, or perhaps a habit of waking late every morning. Let us say this person has a goal of overcoming the addiction or waking up before sunrise every morning. When they achieve this goal, it will be a personal, private, and invisible success. It does not make it any less of a success.

3 Success is not the same as happiness. It is true that happiness is often the result of success. When you succeed, you feel happy. But the opposite is not always true. A person can be happy without being successful. There are many people who live their lives without any great vision, mission, or goals. They may live monotonously and predictably from day to day, not growing, not reaching for the stars — and yet they may be happy to be that way. When you meet them, you may feel they look and act happy, without stress. For sure, such people might be called happy, but it is a happiness that comes from living an average life with neither growth nor deep fulfilment.

Plan for success, prepare for failure

Sometimes you must endure many failures before you earn one success. The millionaire author of the Harry Potter books, J K Rowling, suffered 12 rejections of her story synopsis before a publisher saw its potential and signed her on. The best successes are hard-won and uplifting to the soul.

Dealing well with failure can itself be a success. Thomas Edison, who invented the light bulb, said, “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.” Only 1% of the world’s population is destined to be in the billionaires club. For the majority, struggle is the norm. Those who do not let themselves be crushed by adversity but instead squeeze valuable lessons out of it are uniquely successful people. As Sir Winston Churchill said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

I do not want to give you the false expectation that following the systematic method that is waiting for you in the following chapters is a guarantee of spectacular success. The best military generals teach us to plan for success but prepare for failure. There are wise people who say that those who never fail never succeed.

For peak in your success graph, there will be a trough. Each time you hit a high, you will have a low to learn. The world’s most game-changing discoveries and inventions came from people who were willing and prepared to fail over and over again, learning from each one and perfecting their skills and progress. Remarkable successes like manned flight, the moon landing, amazing medical discoveries and scientific advances have come from men and women who saw failures as the necessary stepping stones for success.

Execute and evolve, execute and evolve

Your life is not written in stone. When you use the method in The Source Code To Success and develop your Vision, Mission, Goals and Action Plan, you are creating a framework for success. Sometimes, your Goal may be as specific as finishing your doctorate and starting a clinic, a process that could a decade or more.

But once you have your clinic, your mind will start looking for the next mountain to climb. Perhaps you would now like to grow your clinic into a modern hospital. Perhaps you would like to build a hospital train to take health and treatment to poor people in remote areas.

Prepare yourselves for success — but also failure, growth, change and evolution as you execute your Action Plans. Be assured also that you are destined to succeed on a daily basis no matter how your plans evolve. Your daily, repeated, sustainable success is built in to The Code of Life.

Take the first step

To end this chapter, I would ask you sit back and think a little about your answer to the big question in this chapter: What must happen in the remaining span of your life for you to say, “I had a successful life.”

Write the answer in the space provided below



8 habits of people who have achieved success

10 individuals who achieved success against all odds

8 habits of people who have achieved success

8 habits of people who have achieved success

You must be logged in to post a comment.