The Dirty Secret of Success by Lindsey Turnbull

The Dirty Secret of Success

by Lindsey Turnbull

Are you sitting down? Good. Maybe you should buckle up, because this is one of the hottest takes I have- one that people love to argue about for hours on end!

And here it is:

There are a lot of ways to be a successful person.

And better yet!

You get to define what success looks like for you.

Defining Success

When I say “that person is super successful!” what immediately comes to mind?

Do you think of someone with a lot of money?
Someone famous?
Someone with a family?
A professor, stock market trader, or someone at the peak of their career?
Someone who has crossed every single thing off their bucket list?
Someone who buys beef jerky and fills up their gas tank without looking at the price of either?
A person who is themselves, every single day?
A person who is happy?

Good news!

All of those people are successful.


Better news: having money, a career title, a family, fame, etc., are markers of success- but not the ONLY measures of success.

You get to define what you success looks like.

Society, TV, movies, culture may tell us we need to look like- and be as rich as- a Kardashian, have a degree, work at a high-paying 9 to 5 job, and be married with 2.5 kids and a white picket fence to be successful.

And if that’s your path, hey, I’m happy for you and I’m cheering you on.

And if you’re not so sure…

That’s OK.

You get to decide.

Don’t believe me?

I have the ~*dictionary*~ on my side!

Even the dictionary definition is flexible, citing success as “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose” or “the satisfactory completion of something.” Wikipedia adds that “the criteria depends on context and may be relative.”

Meaning, again, that success is up to YOU and how you want to live your life.

Creating Your Vision of Success

So, what does success look like to you? With so many possibilities in the world- and your family, your culture, your faith, your friend’s ideas of success- it can be overwhelming to think about your own vision for success.

Start with the basics!


What are your values? 

Is it money? Family? Fame? Faith? Education? Justice? Community?

(If this question has you drawing a blank, no worries! We talk about discovering and living our values in the Girl’s How-To Guide to Authenticity!)

What makes you truly happy?

Same questions as above!

What things have you done that give you the biggest sense of accomplishment?

Good grades? Building something? When babies smile at you? Caring for someone else? Creative pursuits? Winning at sports?

Remember, success can have different components and multiple steps. Success changes over time.

You could have success in relationships, at work, personal successes, at school, emotionally, etc.

You could earn a degree- HOORAY! that’s a huge success!- and use that degree to get a job in a certain field.

You could start therapy and work through some personal issues.

You could finally write the poems or songs you’ve been hearing in your own head- even if you don’t show them to anyone.

Your definition of success may even change as you have new experiences. Your definition of success at 10 isn’t the same as success at 19. Or 40.

Maybe you’ve always wanted to be a lawyer, but once you actually start to practice law, you realize you don’t enjoy it. You were successful at achieving your goal! And it’s OK to make changes if you’re not happy!


Achieving Success

There are SO many factors that go into success, like dedication, timing, privilege, even luck.

I’m not going to pretend there’s one path to be successful, no matter how you define it.

And it’s not a linear process! There will be setbacks. You will make mistakes, get frustrated, question yourself. You will probably make someone angry, even on accident. Not everyone will share in your vision of success, especially if it’s not how we traditionally think of success.

This is all very normal!

Start by setting small goals that are in line with your overall vision of success.

Remember to set SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timebound). Break the goals down into tiny, bite sized pieces, put them on your calendar and go forth!

Say your vision of success is to live the nomad life! Perhaps your smaller goals look like: getting a certification/job that allows you to work from anywhere, learning how to maintain a van, working to save money to buy and build out your perfect van.

No matter how you define success, I’m excited to cheer you on throughout your journey!

Related Reading

The Girl’s How-To Guide to Authenticity!

Goals You Can Actually Keep with the Help of Mobile Apps by Tracy Yu

Life After High School: What Are My Options? 

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