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How Do You Define Success?

Updated: Sep 12, 2019


University of Kentucky sophomore Jackie Hill poses for a photo at the William T. Young Library in Lexington, Kentucky.

To strive for success can be a difficult task when you have a hazy view of what success is.

Merriam-Webster defines success as achieving a goal, or as a degree or measure of succeeding. Whether it’s the classic American Dream or your own personal dreams, we all have our own measure of success. This is what makes us unique and what really sets us apart as people.

At first, I wondered who would be a person who had thorough experiences with the highs and lows of success. None other than an athlete came to mind: Jackie Hill, a sophomore studying kinesiology and a member of the UK women’s swimming and diving team.

She defined success as “achieving a goal you have set for yourself.” Anyone who has ever played a sport knows goal-setting is major.

She said the best qualities of a successful person are “grit and perseverance.”

Those are pivotal in success because life is tough. As everyone has heard, “If it were easy, everyone would do it.” We all need to use our grit to get through it because we are strong and we can make it.

Hill said that her own personal best quality is that she is disciplined.

Setting goals is important and making sure you are setting realistic goals is extremely important. Lastly, I wanted to know what advice she could give to us.

“Be a go-getter,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to fail.”

This is crucial advice for those in college, a time when we are trying to achieve one of the biggest goals that will shape our lives. We need to remember it’s okay to fail as long as we learn— because then success comes out of failure.

Ty’Rell Baker is the social/PR chair for Phi Beta Sigma of the Mu Theta chapter and is on UK’s National Pan-Hellenic Council as part of the External Program. Baker is studying integrated strategic communications with a creative path and wants to work in the creative side of advertising.

His definition of success: being “the best I can possibly be at a given skill set.”


Integrated Strategic Communications student Ty’Rell Baker poses in the Gatton Student Center in Lexington, Kentucky.

I thought this definition was quite different because competition is great, but the best competition is with yourself.

He said he thinks the best thing for a person looking to be successful is understanding that you’re going to fail sometimes. As much as we have talked success, failure is a big part of being successful.

Baker also said, “I’m stubborn; I don’t like to give up.”

I personally love this because if you have that edge to keep fighting, you will most likely win. It is not always the one who finishes first; it’s also who can outlast the other, whether in life, career or school.

His advice for college students: “Have confidence even when you feel you shouldn’t be. Confidence is key, no matter what you’re doing.”

He’s right: If you’re not confident in yourself, how can you expect others to be? This is a time where we are not only working for a degree or a job, but also figuring out how to market ourselves to the world.

Cynthia Miller is an accounting lecturer at UK and studied at the University of Michigan.

Her definition of success was “if one has a good sense of themselves and is comfortable in their skin.”

Miller continued with advice for students.

“Find people that will cultivate you and help you grow…” she said. “Not in a selfish sense, but being surrounded by the right people.”

My mom has always told me this, because the people you surround yourself with will affect your actions and behaviors, and it’s true that we are all influential more than we think.

“There is so much variation in students but the major theme is to know when to stick it out or when to let yourself off the hook and knowing it’s not a complete failure,” Miller said.

As I’ve learned, every failure is a learning experience. It’s truly a failure when you don’t learn from it and make the same mistake.

Accounting professor Cynthia Miller poses for a photo in the Gatton College of Business in Lexington, Kentucky.

Miller said her own best quality is “always learning and finding the bigger picture.”

From these three success stories, I’ve concluded that you have to be persistent but also understand the old country expression “Cutting bait is the best solution.” It’s a fine line, and it takes a couple times to learn, but as someone who’s been learning more and more, success isn’t success without struggle.

Life would not be fun or enjoyable if there wasn’t something that was hard about living it. You must work for the success; if not, it’s just given, and success should be achieved, not given.

I think it’s harder every day in our generation to really define success; it’s all what you make it and how you want your life to be.

My last note is passion isn’t always found. It’s like a diamond; it can be made.

Swtart your own discussion about what success means to those around you to determine what success means to you.


Photos by Jordan Prather

Story Written by Brooke Horton