Success Isn’t Just About Winning

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Success isn’t just about winning

I love this photograph because it tells us so much about both success and happiness. Even though the child in pink boots is in first place they don’t look happy, and neither do they understand the happiness and joy being shown by the child in 3rd place.

Too many people see winning as the definition of success, but not only do I disagree with that, but I disagree with it very strongly.

In my eyes success is all about whether you achieved your goal or not.

Now if you set your goal as to win, then winning is success. But if your goal is to finish third and you achieve that then even still you have been successful.

If you only see winning as a benchmark of success, then you take away the ability to reward and recognize improvements, and it’s often these improvements that lead to winning.

When I was at university I was captain of the Rugby League team, and in my first season we only won 4 games, we beat the same two teams twice, and the following season both those teams were relegated, not only that but our two best players graduated and left the team.

With that in mind we set success, not at winning the league because it was clear we might not win a game, but at ensuring that the team was still in existence the following year.

Now whilst that might seem defeatist, it was more pragmatic and realistic, as we knew that if we just focused on winning we would probably end up losing players and the club might fold.

The team focused on having fun, being a great group, and that no matter the score we would go out and celebrate.

The result was, that in spite of losing all 26 league games, we actually increased our playing membership by 50% and had a great time into the bargain. Which meant we saw that season as a success even though we lost every single game. Our goal was survival and survive we did.

When we let others define what success is for us, there are strong possibilities that this will lead to frustration, demotivation and disengagement.

That doesn’t mean we should aim low in our goal setting, but we should never set impossible goals, and you should never let anyone else set those for you.

As you start to improve, then you can start to raise your targets, your level of expectation, and build momentum that can lead to great results.

The following year at university, given our improved squad size, we were able to attract many more players, including some very good players, and we actually finished fourth in the league (out of 20) and were beaten in the semifinal of the cup.

Yes, that year was a great year, but it wouldn’t have been possible had we not managed to survive the previous year.


  • Don’t let others define success for you – that’s a surefire path to failure
  • Be optimistic, but realistic in your goal setting
  • Remember success is also a journey, not just a destination