7 Traits of True Success


Success is a popular subject today. It drives us, stymies us, frustrates us, eludes us, and dominates us. It is the subject of conversations, seminars, books, and sermons. We all want to be successful at something. We are encouraged to be successful. We are taught to be successful. We admire those who appear to be successful. We live in a success-dominated society.

But what does it mean to be successful?

Success usually brings to mind financial achievement or being number one. Vince Lombardi, the former football coach of the Green Bay Packers, often said, “Winning isn’t everything—it’s the only thing!” He applied it to football; others apply it to life.

Others would define success by the bumper sticker: He who dies with the most toys wins.

Some like to think that success is being busy—on the go, racing from one appointment to another, having much to do with too little time to do it. We often feel “used up” by the end of the day. The Japanese even have a word for it, karoshi, which literally means dropping dead at your desk. Is that success? Is it spending all your time, energy, physical and emotional resources at work that you have nothing left over for friends and family?

The problem with these definitions of success is they exact a high cost. The Executive Digest said, “The trouble with success is the formula is the same as the one for a nervous breakdown.” That’s sobering, uncomfortable, and too often true.

Let me ask you a couple of questions? Have your many victories brought you the happiness that you desire? Have your many toys fulfilled your satisfaction? Has your frenzied lifestyle provided you with the peace that you long for?

Maybe you need to take a look at where you are and where you’d like to be. Maybe the definition of success that you are familiar with is not the correct one. I would encourage you to reassess your definition of success before it is too late.

Alfred Nobel invented dynamite. He made a fortune from it and other powerful explosives used for weapons. When Nobel’s brother died, a writer of his obituary confused Alfred and his brother and wrote an obituary for Alfred instead. The obituary described Alfred as a man who made a fortune by enabling people to kill others in large numbers. Alfred Nobel was shocked and shaken when he read that. It caused him to reassess his life and what he had been doing. He decided to use his fortune to honor accomplishments that were beneficial to society and humanity. So he created the Nobel Peace Prize.

Look at success in a new light. Here are seven traits of true success.

  1. Service. There is no such thing as success without service. The secret of success lies in meeting the needs of others. And when we are meeting people’s needs we will discover fulfillment.
  2. Understanding contentment. Let’s not measure success by how much we own or much money we have in the bank but by a sense of inner contentment. Real success is always internal, never external.
  3. Character. Character is of greater value than money or status. A man’s best test of character is revealed in how he treats people around him. So measure your success not by your possessions and achievements; measure success in the quality of your character and conduct.
  4. Compassion. What really matters is not money, power, and ego but issues of the heart—like care, kindness, bravery, generosity, and love. Do you love people more than things?
  5. Excellence. Excellence is not being the best but being your best.
  6. Significance. The popular notion of success has not cut it. A growing number of people yearn for significance more than success. Significance comes by giving ourselves to something that is greater than us and that will outlast us.
  7. Sacrifice. A problem in our society is that we are spending our entire lives looking for something worth living for. It would be better if we found something worth dying for. A young pilot in the RAF wrote just before he went down in 1940, “The universe is so vast and so ageless that the life of one man can only be justified by the measure of his sacrifice.”

Perhaps redefining success is these terms will define your life. Perhaps, a new meaning of success will give your life meaning. Try it on for size to see the difference it will make for you.


Did you know that if we practiced love our relationships would be stronger, our jobs would be more meaningful, our ailments would be fewer? Earlier this year I wrote an encouraging book on love called Chapter 13: The Excellence of Love. The book gets its title from perhaps the greatest statement ever made on love by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13. It provides a guide to love, if practiced will make us well and whole. Click here to claim your copy.


About Rick Ezell

I am a husband, father, pastor, and writer. This blog is about shaping character, transforming church, and impacting culture. I believe that if one defines their moments then their moments will determine their character and their character will influence their world. I write on personal development, church leadership, and our changing culture. I also write about the resources I am developing and the books I am writing. My goal is to create challenging, relevant, and inspiring content that will help you be a better person, the church be a better parish, and the world a better place. If you are interested in those things, this blog is for you. I have served the church my entire career as a student minister and senior pastor. I studied at Samford University, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Northern Baptist Theological Seminary (eventually I will get it). I have written eight books. My most recent ones are Chapter 13: The Excellence of Love and Soul Therapy: The Healing Words of Psalm 23. Both are available as eBooks. I have written over 1000 articles for various local, regional, and national publications. I have been married to Cindy for thirty-three years. We have one wonderful daughter. We live in Greenville, SC. In my free time, I enjoy writing, reading, running, tennis, and golf. You can contact me via email or follow me on Twitter or Facebook. This is my personal blog. The opinions I express here do not necessarily represent those of my employer. The information I provide is on an as-is basis. I make no representations as to accuracy, completeness, correctness, suitability, or validity of any information on this blog and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its use.
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