Success means different things to different people. Nevertheless, I suggest that there is a universal definition of success—yes, universal, as in, one that’s actually the same for everybody: Success is a triangle, a three-legged stool. The first of the three sides (or legs) is excellence. The second is personal growth, and the third, happiness. No matter what you do in life or work, in order for your effort to be a success, it must include all three. If one is missing, the structure has no integrity: and it will topple and fall—or “fail.” If you are committed to your success, then you must have, do and be all three.

Excellence and Personal Growth
Excellence is simply the quality of being the best you can be. It is the optimum (not maximum) personal performance, optimum meaning most favorable or advantageous.

Your excellence is not mine or anyone else’s. You (and only you) set the standard. There is no comparison involved, only the answer to the question: “Have I done my very best?"

The pursuit of excellence is an ongoing process. It is never “done” nor finished, only complete for now. When excellence is your goal, all your efforts and endeavors can be satisfying and fulfilling, which contributes to you experiencing ever-increasing horizons of competence and confidence.

Personal growth is an approach to life and work in which you consistently and continually learn, develop and grow. Every experience, encounter and endeavor you face presents you with opportunities to gain knowledge, open up a point of view, expand your awareness, raise your judgment, increase your competence and learn new skills.

Personal growth is a journey, not a destination. It is the path of mastery, and, as George Leonard observed in the following article from Esquire, there are no shortcuts.

It resists definition, yet can be instantly recognized. It comes in many variations, yet follows certain unchanging laws. It makes us, in the words of the Olympic motto, “Faster, higher, stronger,” yet is not really a goal or a destination, but rather a process, or journey.

We call this journey mastery and tend to assume that it requires a special ticket available only to those born with exceptional abilities. But mastery is not reserved for the super-talented, or even for those who are fortunate enough to have gotten an early start. It is available to anyone who is willing to get on the path and stay on it—regardless of age, sex, or experience.

The problem is that we have few, if any, maps to guide us on the journey or even to show us how to find the path. The modern world can be viewed as a prodigious conspiracy against mastery. We are bombarded with promises of fast, immediate gratification, and immediate and instant success, all of which lead in exactly the wrong direction.

The master’s journey can begin whenever you decide to learn any new skill—how to touch-type, how to play the piano, how to fly a plane. But it achieves a special poignancy, a quality akin to poetry or drama, in the fields of sports, where muscles, mind and spirit come together in graceful and purposeful movements through space and time. In sports, especially competitive sports, there also exists the greatest temptation to take shortcuts towards quick results in performance and winning rather than staying on the path to mastery.

“Playing For Keeps: The art of mastery in sport and life,” edited by George Leonard, Esquire, May 1987.

The third and final leg of the tripod of success, happiness, is the one component most often forgotten. For some strange reason, most people are all too willing to live and work without being happy. This is absolutely crazy!

Perhaps we English-speaking people suffer from some leftover historical interpretation of the word from way back when it was “hap,” meaning luck. C’mon—happiness, a matter of luck? Fate, fortune, karma, kismet, predestination…you’re either born happy or not? No way: happiness is your birthright—at least seeking it is, if you’re an American. Remember the promise penned by Thomas Jefferson, who told us that we had the rights of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”?

The longer I live, the more intent I am on living the motto: “If it feels good—do it!” I can tell you this: if it doesn’t make me happy, I am not doing it. Aren’t you sick and tired of not having fun? If a person, place or thing is not a source of pleasure, satisfaction or joy, why have it—or them—in your life? (Or your network marketing enterprise?)

If I ask you, “What one thing is missing in most people’s lives today?” I’ll bet you’d rank being happy way up on the list. I’m convinced that happiness is mandatory for success.

There you are, the three required elements for success: excellence, personal growth and happiness. Next time you’re planning for success, or evaluating whether or not you’ve got it, give these three a thought.


John Milton Fogg is the author of the million-selling book, The Greatest Networker in the World, and founder of the “Greatest Networker” online community (