Success: Internal, Not External

I’m not sure what this is. A quick posit of thought and insight, I think.

Insight and thought that is simple.

Success, redefined, simply.

“Man, all I need is job that pays six figures and then I can buy a house in here. Then I will be happy. No doubt.”

My buddy made this comment to me in passing, yesterday, as we were riding in a golf cart. We were riding towards my tee shot when he said it, as we glanced upon the luxury homes in our periphery.

I asked him a question in return, which I had to do because, one, I was genuinely interested in his answer, and, two, he looks up when he thinks and I needed to furtively drop a ball from my pocket into the rough that I would claim as my tee shot.

“What do you mean, then you’d be happy?”

He contorted his face into an upward ponder.

“And man, I crushed this drive. I knew it stayed in!”

“Well,” he began, “I mean, I’m not gonna be really happy until I make that type, that amount of money. When I have that type of money I can buy the nice house and make my family happy.”

When I dropped my ball from my pocket a few seconds previous it buried in the rough.

“You’re not happy right now, without those things?”

Skyward gaze. I fluffed my ball into a flyer lie.

“I’m happy, ya know, you know that. But I want to be successful. Really successful. All our friends with the money live in here. I want to work hard to get to that point. I want to be successful, like them.”

After we finished that conversation, and I said what I said—and put myself down for a three—I really started to think about the subject matter. About success. My response and reply to my friend was kind of good, and kind of redirecting, but it was still vague and intangible. For most people, I think, that’s how success is. Or, if it is exact—their meaning and pursuit of success—is exactly wrong; and damaging.

Real success is intrinsic in nature, not extrinsic. Internal over External.

Selflessly selfish.

You have to consider yourself first. Your happiness—the greatest measure of success, followed marginally by purpose and passion—has to be dependent upon you.

This is not a new idea. At all. It’s also not my idea at all. It’s just something that I’ve heard and read and studied from every major benevolent influencer worth their weight. The people creating value, and the companies making a difference, are internally driven first. Their successes are met by satisfying intrinsic purpose and achievement. They, or their success, is never contingent upon external forces. That would be fleeting, and fake, and outside of their control. Something temporary is not success.

If that sounds selfish, and in disaccord with what you think or want success to be, my bad. My b. Let me try again.

Goals is where I should have started.

Most of us set goals. In college during baseball season, I, along with a lot of my teammates, would write goals to be placed in our lockers. Things like desired batting averages and HR’s and everything else I never sniffed were taped to our locker cubbies. It’s the same in our endeavors of fitness and we do it in our sales/production roles all the time, too. We set our sights—our success being contingent upon it—by numbers and titles.

  • By Q3 (Q means quarter, I’m legit) achieve 100% of annual sales quota.


  • Run marathon in sub 3:15 time in 2019.


  • 75% match to date Bumble conversion in 2019.

Those are the type of goals that are result to an improper view of success. They are also goals I may or may not have set in the past. But they are “resume” goals; accomplishments like titles and sales numbers; outside of your control more often than not and subject to exterior manipulation.

This/these aren’t bad things, though. Don’t get me wrong on that. They can still be very helpful and organizing and concrete goals of this fashion absolutely should serve as “north stars” on your vocational/personal path. They just never should define you. They shouldn’t be a requisite to your happiness, for your success. They will be the result of your success.

That was a big point, so I’ll say it again: They will be result of your success.

Shift your thinking, conversely with the three previous external goals/bullets:

  • I am committed to the optimization of myself as a sales representative. I will work daily to improve both my strengths and weaknesses. If I feel regret or unfulfilled in my work efforts, at any time, I will replace that feeling with further education or sales outreach. Always.
  • My commitment is to my mental and physical development and I will strategically push myself to its peak every day. Growth, in regards to my body, breathing, and training, will be an unrelenting constant.
  • Be a great person, don’t text girls after 11 PM, and take pride in your appearance.

“Resume” virtues, mentioned earlier, was something I came across in David Brooks book, “Road to Character.” He explained, much more succinctly than I did, why they should not be foundational or major constitution to your success. Instead, live with “eulogy” virtues in mind (the nice things you want people to say at your funeral, like “Beau was a lovely writer” or “Beau adored his mother Nancy” or “Beau always projected positivity and confidence with women despite aggressive rejection”).

Pursuit of your best character, and optimization of yourself for the betterment of others, is the aim. In making that mental shift, your happiness will hang completely in your balance. You are in control of the effort you put forth, the content you want to create, and the personal growth you seek—the person you want to become. Those things will never leave you, whereas a barometer to success like a salary, or a bonus, or a house, are fleeting. If you get one of those things, great, now what? Now what will make you happy? And if you don’t meet one of those ends, you become unhappy, and everything you did in the past working towards it was meaningless?


No that sucks.

That’s also not how it needs to be.

It won’t be that way, when you live in internal satisfaction and pursuit. Way, way more times than not you will long overshoot the external goals you had, or would have set, by focusing internally first.

Last year I ran my first marathon. I didn’t do well in terms of my time. For six months all I was concerned about with was mile time, getting below an 8-minute pace for the duration. My fixation was an end result, not the process. In the end, I ate shit. Figuratively. On mile 21 I figuratively ate shit.

Now, in my training, I do not fixate on those times or goals. I will track my times at the end of my run, sure, but during and before, I prep my mind and body to operate at my highest level. I do things to meet that internal standard, holding myself accountable because that is what my goals and success demand. My focus and intent is upon constant improvement and fulfillment of person standards. The process. Correlatively, I’m running faster than I ever have, looking the leanest I’ve ever been, and now operating an active Bumble Plus account.

To tie things together, and to bring forth a more relevant example, let’s go to one more intrinsic vs extrinsic situation:

  • By January 2020 reach 5,000 Instagram followers.


  • I am fully committed to creating great content in line with my beliefs and identity and I will work daily to analyze continual content improvement. Stop taking pictures of my food.

I know I preface too much in my writing, which is kind of like a comedian explaining why his/her joke was funny, but I need do it one more time before concluding. Objective goals set concretely in number and term, like the majority of my previous examples, are not bad things. Quite the opposite. In their nature they enable planning and direction, and most successful business demands finite accountability. It’s necessary, too, and filling a resume with accolades can only aid. But, and this is what I’ve been trying to get at for 1400 words, those things do not define real success.

Real success is happiness.

Real success is purpose.

Real success is wonder.

Real success is all of that which can only be met by being your best self in whatever it is you are doing—in career and in life. It comes from within, and it is constant. Never is it fleeting and never is it stagnant, nor is it ever outside of your control. It is a personal, internal challenge where only you can determine fulfillment. You know when you have met real success, or are close to it, because you are honest with yourself and you love the person you are becoming. Material influx is nice—I have a fully loaded Jeep Cherokee, 2013, so I get it—but all that will come on go. You, as a whole, and the growth you make, is permanent.

You, and your pursuit of personal growth, is success.

Selflessly selfish.

I cheat heavy on the golf course. That’s not success and I’m working on it.

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