How Do You Define "Success"?

Earlier this month I ran in the Hobbler Half Marathon through picturesque Hobble Creek Canyon in Springville, UT. 800 or so of my closest running friends and I glided down the gentle slopes of the canyon along the narrow highway and paved running/biking trail. Because of its long and relatively steep decent, the Hobbler Half is known for producing PRs-personal records.
I signed up for the race just days before, but I still was excited and confident that I would get my PR.
After an early 4:30 a.m. wake-up call from my alarm, a long bus ride up the canyon to the starting line, and 30-40 minutes of waiting with hundreds of other anxious runners, I was off. And I definitely was off with the intent to beat . . . no, crush . . . my previous PR. For my level of running I was cruising down the canyon.
Mile 1, done.
Mile 2, easy.
Mile 3, get out of my way.
Mile 4, 5, and 6, I’ve got this.
Mile 7, well maybe I’m going too fast for my own good.
Mile 8, yup, this is going to be tough to maintain.
It was at this point I realized my body wasn’t built to sustain that pace despite my somewhat obsessive training regimen. I was running out of gas. Nature took over and my pace slowed waaaaaay down.
Fortunately I made it through the race. After trudging through (or at least that’s how I felt) the final 3-4 miles, I came within a minute of my PR. But I didn’t quite make it.
Which begs the question and point of this whole post: was I successful?
On the one hand I did take 75th place out of about 800 runners. Not bad. But at the same time there were 74 people ahead of me—quite a few for a relatively small race (there were about 4,000 runners at the SLC Half Marathon in April). And I didn’t get my PR.
So what is success?
You’re probably familiar with John Wooden’s definition:
“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”
I love that other people or outside indicators—such as a scoreboard, race clock, or bank account—don’t define our success or failure. We do.
But I also love the flip side—the responsibility of success is on us. Simply trying or having fun won’t lead to greatness, though effort is a key ingredient. In fact, you can’t even leave it at “do your best.”
We not only have to do our best, but funnel that energy and efficiency into becoming the best we are capable of becoming.
What is the best you are capable of becoming? And are you doing your best to reach that? Answer yes to that question, and no matter the score, no matter the results, you are successful.
Let’s face it, I’ll never win a Half Marathon, no matter how hard I try. But that’s not my measuring stick of success.
Rather, did I do my best to become the best runner I’m capable of being?
Fortunately for me, only I can answer that question. And you are the only one that can answer that question for you—what is your best? And did you do your best to become your best self?
As to my question about whether my half marathon was a success, I say yes. I learned from the experience and have now set goals to do better. But for that one summer morning, I have the self-satisfaction of knowing I gave it my all in the pursuit of my best.
So aim high—not in position, or rank, or title necessarily. Expect the best from yourself in whatever role you play, no matter how big or small it is.
Do your best at becoming your best self.
Then, at the end of the day—regardless of results—sit back and enjoy the peace, self-satisfaction, and fulfillment from knowing you were a success.

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Alex Stoddard

Alex Stoddard is the President and CEO of CS Music and Classical Singer magazine. Since 2003 Alex has been involved heavily with CS in advertising sales, the CS Vocal Competition, the CS Convention, and the development of the website Alex graduated with a B.A. from Brigham Young University and a M.S. from Utah State University. He currently lives in Lehi, UT with his wife Becky and their 6 children and is a high school basketball coach on the side.