Definition of Success

I was taught the definition of success in business school.  We just finished 4 weeks of pre-term (refresher courses on math, accounting etc..) before my official 1st year at Wharton began.  My accounting professor used most of the time in our last class to give us a lecture on success and what it means.

He said success is not about getting into that #1 business school, not about getting that six figure job, not about having a fancy job title or even getting our face on the cover of Fortune.  He warned us business school may lead us to money, fortune, and even fame, but that’s not success.  Don’t be overly tempted and give us what’s truly important in life.   It’s critical as we began our education at Wharton knowing the difference.

He then walked around and passed out this yellow paper.  This is what it says.


To laugh often and much;
to win the respect of intelligent people and affection of children;
to earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;
to appreciate beauty;
to find the best in others;
to leave the world a bit better,
whether by a healthy child, a garden patch
or redeemed social condition;
to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived
That is to have succeeded!

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

That was one of the most memorable lectures I had at Wharton.  The way I recounted it definitely does not do it justice.  But I remember being moved deeply by what he said.  To this day, I still have this yellow paper – a constant reminder of what is really important in life and use it as a guide for my career / life choices.

What is your definition of success?

– Lei

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Barbi Jones

Thank you for posting such great information.

The Secret of Success in Life - Learn from the greatest mentors of all time

It’s amazing how success principles and can be implemented to make every area of your life better. Gain some wisdom here and there and your whole life can change.


Lei, another great article! It reminded me about a recent article on success. Its gist was on how we should focus on the intrinsic qualities as opposed to the extrinsic qualities when determining success. After all, we will leave all the earthling things behind anyway when our time comes. The only things that will remain are what’s in our heart, mind and soul.

Keep up the great work.


Lei, this is an inspiring post! i realize that my definition often changes over time. by the way, is there an easier way to leave a comment on your blog? i currently need to click the “no comments” link at the beginning of the post to leave a comment. might be more convenient to have a link at the end of the post…