What is Success?

Success: advancing towards what you desire to achieve in life:


Dear friend,

Practical question:

What is success? Is success important? If so, why is success important? Is “successful” a final state we desire to achieve, or is “success” an action we do on a daily basis? Does “success” need to be very big, or small?

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If you study the Latin word for success (Succedo), it literally means to “advance”. I like this notion— because in modern times, “success” is seen only in monetary-economic-utilitarian values. You’re only “successful” if you have external totems or markers of success via your income, savings, or the things you own — rather than “success” in your everyday actions.

Success isn’t a final state


The problem in modern society is also this:

You are classified into a binary — either as “successful” or “unsuccessful”.

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To me, this is silly. Many people desire to (“one day”) become “successful”. They see “success” as some summit which needs to be climbed and reached. And the false notion is once you are “successful”, everything will be sunshine and roses, and we will perpetually be in a state of happiness and joyful bliss.


In the photography world, I’ve achieved “success” in terms of my personal goals and desires — traveling the world, making money from photography, getting these fancy cameras I desired, having solo exhibitions, becoming “famous”, etc. But even though I achieved “success”— I didn’t feel wholly fulfilled. I didn’t feel this eternal bliss and joy which I expected.


Essentially what happened was:

I reached the pinnacle of success and I told myself, “Wait— that’s it!?!?”

Which made me wonder —

There certainly must be more to life than simply striving for and achieving “success”.

Success as advancement


Succedo (Latin) means to advance, climb, ascend. I much prefer this definition.

Why? This means:

Every action in which you advance, climb, or ascend — you are “succeeding”!

This means,

We don’t use the concept of “successful” or “unsuccessful” as attributes which categorize ourselves. Instead, we either label our actions as successful or unsuccessful. And successful meaning:

Did this action advance my personal goal or mission statement, or retard/rewind my movement backwards?

Never stop climbing


My mom is an epic backpacker, world traveler, and hiker. She’s 60+ years old, and will still hike 12 miles a day for 20 days straight in Nepal, with a 40 pound backpack. How does she stay motivated? She told me the secret:

Sangjina (my Korean nickname)— it is simple. All you have to do is keep putting one foot in front of another— and to keep moving forward. If you try to look at the summit, and see how far away you are, you will become discouraged. Just keep moving one foot in front of another — keep moving forward and upwards.


I think this is a beautiful way for us to also live our lives:

Let us never stop advancing in the direction of our life goals, dreams, and supreme self-dictated life task.


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