Success is Subjective

Blog / Success is Subjective

Baby Boomers and their parents define success in a different way, and today that tradition stands true. From the clear path to education to the corporate ladder itself, Baby Boomers were taught to (and some still do) define success in a much different way than today’s Generation Z’ers. Along came generation X, who sought to become successful through gaining power or authority, ensuring they maintained a work-life balance, and building upon their skill set. On the other hand, as millennials have entered the workforce, their definition of success has been completely reinvented. They define their own success by a measure of flexibility within their work, the purpose of their work, developmental opportunities/advancement into leadership roles, and their non-negotiable focus on work-life balance. 

Success from the employee perspective 

From an individual’s perspective, success – and by success, we can safely include personal and professional – no longer means or values the six-figure salary, but instead an option to fit their working lives into their personal. The open flexibility for gig work or entrepreneurship, completion of their work, and the ability to vacation/ travel with family or friends. Is success being refined by “happiness,” 401Ks, a corner office, job titles, and salary moving away from the core definition? The current labor force is composed of (35%) millennials, according to Pew Research Center Report, thus making them the largest group in the workforce. Therefore, their concepts of success can not be ignored and creates an adoptive employment field. Recruiters for organizations must show value and understanding of their redefinition in order to properly retain their talent. Cultural diversity, inclusion, and equity are essential for the attraction of those entering the workforce and underlying key components to their happiness.

Success from the company perspective 

If we take a company or employer perspective in understanding what it is and how to achieve success, we cannot ignore the generational changes either and how we grew into a highly competitive world where you are no longer and never again will be the single solution to a problem. Competition is in the game, and companies have to compete with other areas. Pricing, technology, and a really important one that is oftentimes overlooked: the culture and the people of the company you are partnering with. 

Companies understand the professional and personal involvements of success and are embracing it through engaging in partnerships, offering trusting advisors or consultants, and getting to know the culture of one’s company better and deeper in order – sure enough – to achieve their goals, metrics, and ultimate success. Success, in this case, is a process. A process of getting to know who we are, what we need, and how to achieve them. Identifying the pains and flaws, identifying the strengths and needs, the underlying culture that is moving all pieces – and choosing how we are holding each other’s hands through the process. This is, maximizing efficiencies and making the most out of what we have to change what we don’t have. 

Understanding that one’s idea or definition of success can be impacted by societal factors, as well as the generation one is born into. Before defining success, take a step back and evaluate why success is of value to you. What would it look like if you acquired success, and how does your environment affect that? Regardless of your age, generation, or other identifying factors, once you create actionable goals, you can take steps toward achieving success.

Success is a collaborative process. Both companies and individuals walk hand in hand to achieve their own and contribute to the client’s success. The question – or challenge – remains: what are the fundamental elements of professional and personal involvement in success? Where does it start in a professional environment, and what is the role of company culture in ensuring success is achieved? One thing is guaranteed – no company, to date, has reported a high level of success without addressing their workplace culture, and how that has been one of the most important elements in achieving success. 


Dr. Margarida Rafael