What is Success?


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If you were to ask ten people their definition of success, most would agree that success is doing something which makes you wealthy.

Obviously, success has many dimensions that do not necessarily require the accumulation of riches.

You can be a successful mother or father, without being wealthy.

Mother Teresa was successful. She helped millions struggling with poverty. So, Mother Teresa was successful, yet not wealthy.

Most teachers are not wealthy. However, they nonetheless succeed in educating children, who go on to become productive members of society.

But, since most associate success with wealth, we can’t ignore the elephant in the room – success and wealth.

According to my Rich Habits research, success comes in many flavors -there is more than one way to become successful in the context of wealth creation.

In fact, from my research, I’ve identified four types of success.


There is one path to success that does not require any unique set of skills, does not require special knowledge and does not require taking significant risks.

Success as a Saver-Investor has only two requirements:

  1. Saving 20% or more of your income by living off of 80% or less of your income and
  2. Consistently and prudently investing your savings.

According to my Rich Habits Study, this guaranteed-success path takes about 32 years to accumulate enough wealth ($3.3 million) to render you financially independent.

This path is not for everyone. It requires enormous financial discipline and a long-term commitment.


Working for a big company and rising up the ladder into senior management is another path to riches. In most cases, the wealth these self-made millionaires accumulate comes from either stock compensation or a partnership share of profits.

This path is also not for everyone. You must devote yourself to one company for a long period of time. And there are risks. The biggest risk is you could be fired.

A secondary risk is profitability. If the company struggles financially, for whatever reason, your time investment in the company may not be rewarded, to the extent you expected.


Virtuosos are individuals who are the best at what they do or possess knowledge which sets them apart from all of the competition.

Becoming a Virtuoso requires an enormous investment in time, and sometimes money.

There are two types of Virtuosos:

#1 Skill-based Virtuosos devote themselves to many years of Deliberate Practice and Analytical Practice.

Deliberate Practice involves Repetition – repeatedly practicing some skill until that skill can be performed expertly and without conscious thought.

Analytical Practice requires feedback from someone watching you perform your craft; someone who is also an expert in the same craft. In most cases, getting someone to watch you do what you do and then evaluate your performance, requires money to pay for that coaching.

But you don’t always need to pay someone to be your “coach”.

You can shadow a Virtuoso, intern for a Virtuoso, or find a job working for a Virtuoso. In this way, the Virtuoso is your unpaid “coach”, also known as a mentor.

#2 Knowledge-based Virtuosos spend many years in continuous study. Oftentimes, this requires formal education, such as advanced degrees (PhD, Medical Degrees, Law Degrees, etc.).

Again, this path is not for everyone. Not everyone has the ability to devote significant hours every day practicing their skill, or the financial resources to pursue advanced degrees or pay for a coach.


Entrepreneur success requires the pursuit of a dream. This might be starting a business. It might involve becoming a successful author, musician, actor or artist. It might be the creation of an app, product or some unique service, which provides added value to a significant number of people.

Of all of the ways to become successful, entrepreneurship delivers the biggest bang for the buck – the average self-made millionaire entrepreneur in my Rich Habits Study accumulated $7.4 million in an average of just twelve years.

This path requires a high tolerance for risk, the ability to handle enormous stress and emotional  discipline in dealing with uncertainty, pitfalls and obstacles. Not everyone has the fortitude, being a Dreamer requires.

The fact is, everyone is different.

Not everyone has the discipline to save and prudently invest their savings.

Not everyone can tolerate the politics inherent in working in a big company environment.

Not everyone has the time or money to become a Virtuoso.

And not everyone has the requisite high tolerance for taking the risks, Entrepreneurship requires.

You have to choose the Success path that is right for your unique personality.

My mission is to share my unique research in order to help others realize their dreams and achieve their goals. If you find value in these articles, please share them with your inner circle and encourage them to Subscribe. Thank You!

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Thomas C. Corley About Thomas C. Corley

Tom Corley is a bestselling author, speaker, and media contributor for Business Insider, CNBC and a few other national media outlets.

His Rich Habits research has been read, viewed or heard by over 50 million people in 25 countries around the world.

Besides being an author, Tom is also a CPA, CFP, holds a master’s degree in taxation and is President of Cerefice and Company, a CPA firm in New Jersey.
Phone Number: 732-382-3800 Ext. 103.
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