Episode 319: What Is Success?

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Fulfilling your personal desire is success by any reasonable definition. The measure of your success is how well you use your productive time to achieve the goals that are important to you, not how you stack up to everybody else.

Given that success is so ephemeral, how do you go about achieving it? There’s no generic formula, but the phrase Dr. Misner uses in his book Masters of Success is “the uncommon application of common knowledge.”

If everyone knows what it takes to be successful–and most people who are asked, from college students to millionaires, give the same answers–then why do so few people succeed, even by their own definitions? For one thing, even people who work hard don’t always make good decisions. For another, many people are impatient, and don’t want to put in the long hours of hard work that success requires.

Brought to you by Networking Now.

Complete Transcript of BNI Podcast Episode 319 –

Hello everyone and welcome back to The Official BNI Podcast brought to you by NetworkingNow.com, which is the leading site on the net for networking downloadables. I am Priscilla Rice, and I am coming to you from Live Oak Recording Studio, in Berkeley, CA. I am joined on the phone today by the Founder and Chairman of BNI, Dr. Ivan Misner. Hello Ivan. How are you and where are you this week?

Hi Priscilla. I am working from my lake house up in Big Bear this week. I have an office up here and I like to spend a couple weeks over the summer working up here. It is beautiful. On my Facebook page, my Ivan Misner public page, I will make sure there is a photograph of the view from my office. It is a great place to write. I do a lot of writing up here.

Oh, that’s great. So what is this topic that you have brought up- what is success?

I am often asked about the success of BNI, my success and what does it take to be successful ever since I wrote the book, Masters of Success. We define success. We all pursue success in some way. We have desires to strive and achieve them. Out desires may all be different and we may not consider achieving them necessarily- somebody else’s definition of success, when they achieve that, we may not view it as success. We all have a different definition.

We look around and we see people whose success we envy. What is so and so doing that puts him so far ahead – money, friends and influence. Why is he successful and I am not? Why is he living in a big house and raising three perfect kids and I am looking for a mate? Why is that guy’s cardboard box bigger than mine? Where did he get that shopping cart from?

The truth is that without knowing all the facts, without being inside the mind of another person, you can’t say whether that person is more successful than you or not. He may be worth millions but is unhappy because his goal is to, who knows, be a governor by the age of 40. He is growing tired of the frenetic pursuit of power and maybe you are not as wealthy as you want like to be, but on the other hand, you may have made it through some great personal difficulties. You are pleased to have kept your finances or your family in tact.

Which one of the two of you are more successful? It’s hard to say. Fulfilling your personal desire is success by any reasonable definition. The measure of your success is really how well you use your productive time, I think, to achieve the goals that are important to you- not how you stack your goals compared to everybody else. How well you have used your abilities and resources to achieve your goals that you have, however humble, however big.

You know, who knows? That governor may be watching you and going, “I am miserable. I don’t like what I am doing.”Todd Medalonde put it, “From the outside they look successful, but on the inside they are miserable where they are at.”

Dictionaries define success as the achievement of something that is desired planned or attempted. I talk about that in Masters of Success. But in real life, success is kind of a slippery concept, especially when you come to your own definition of it. Success is a relative thing. It is highly personal. Many an exhausted high achiever reaches that lofty goal only to realize it is a peak, but the true summit loomed much higher- or they move their goal during some. Sometimes they get to where they wanted to be 10 years ago and they are not happy now. They want something else. Others have achieved the highest heights only to find them empty and have realized on the way down that it is empty.

Many modest achievers have trekked through a lifetime of really rocky trails and at some point they feel that they have a victory in where they are because of all the challenges that they have gone through.

Hopefully people listening to this have an idea of how ephemeral the notion of success really is. How do you go about achieving it? I think that is an important question. You won’t find it. There is none. Success really depends on timing, circumstances, situations and most important, your own perception of what success really is.

There is really no mathematical standard for measuring when and how thoroughly you have achieved it. There are many ways to measure success, but in the final analysis, it is sort of how you measured it for yourself that really counts. In Masters of Success, I talk about the concept really being the uncommon application of common knowledge. I don’t know if we have talked about that before.

I have heard of it. Yes, you mentioned it.

It’s in the book. They key is that we all kind of know what it takes to be successful. I asked a professor at a local state university what it takes to be successful. They gave me the exact same list that mega millionaires give me and that the average business person gave. They all said that it was about goals, vision, system, accountability, leverage, social capital-related things like trust. They gave me the same list.

So if we all know what it takes to be successful, why is it that we are not all as successful as we want to be. I think the answer to that is success is the uncommon application of common knowledge. It’s not just- part of it is knowing what it takes but it is that uncommon application and having a clear vision of what you want to accomplish and what is success for you.

For me, success is not about making money. Listen, I like money just like anybody else. But it is not about money. It is about making a difference in people’s lives. It about being able to teach what I teach and being able to connect with people. To me, that is the biggest level of success. And I found out late that being able to support charitable causes is important to me. That is how I measure my success. It is oftentimes not just about money but about many other things.

I just have to agree with you. On a personal level, I grew up in Beverly Hills. It was a very lonely and kind of empty world up there that people seemed to envy and really would like for themselves. But if you have been inside it, it is really unusually empty.

What is interesting is that people who haven’t hit the financial goals that they want often view people who have hit big financial goals as- they strive to achieve that but oftentimes, people who have hit those numbers have no life.

Right. And have strange relationships with people who would like to benefit from whatever they have done. That is the worst part.

You are absolutely right. I am pretty confident that when I am 70, I am not going to look back and say, gee I wish I would have spent more time at the office. You know, I think it is about making a difference in people’s lives. It’s about certainly making a living and taking care of your family. And for me, it is about being able to support charitable causes. You know, as I have gotten a little more gray hair, that has become more important to me, to make a difference. With the BNI Foundation, it is about children and education.

That is great. Yeah, I love that.

That is what I use to define success for me, but I think it is important for people to understand to have a realistic expectation and that success if often about hard work and good choices. That is another aspect that I talk about in Masters of Success. You have to do both. I knew someone once who worked really hard but she continually made really stupid choices over and over again. And she could not figure out why she was not achieving success. Well, stop making so many bad choices.

You complain about money one day and the next day you go out and buy a new pair of shoes, very expensive shoes. I understand the need for retail therapy from time to time, but if times are tough, maybe you don’t need another pair of designer shoes. I don’t know. I don’t like telling people how to spend their money. I have too many people who try to tell me how to spend my money. So I don’t like telling other people how to spend their money. And if you are struggling with money, you might consider using it a little more wisely.

So good choices and hard work. And I say this in this podcast to BNI members because all of what I just described takes time. Achieving success, with whatever goals you set, assuming you are setting them high enough, it is going to take time.

And I am guessing that you want to be a success if your referral marketing. Give it time. Work hard. Make good choices. And it’s about the uncommon application of common knowledge. We share everything that it takes to be successful in BNI through these podcasts. If you give it time and you apply these things consistently, you can achieve the level of success that you want by applying the concepts over time.

Just don’t expect- I tell people I am a 20-year overnight success. It took me 20 years to achieve any level of success professionally. I think all too often, we are expecting this overnight return on investment of time. Life just doesn’t play out that way. At least, it hasn’t for me.

Yeah. It does take time. So patience.

Patience. So if you are listening to this podcast, I would love to hear your comments about what it takes to be successful, either personally or in BNI. Share with me here your feedback about what is success and what it takes to be successful. That is all I have for today, Priscilla.

Okay, that is great. Thank you so much. I would like to remind the listeners that this podcast has been brought to you by networkingnow.com, which is the leading site on the net for networking downloadables. Thanks so much for listening. This is Priscilla Rice, and we hope you will join us next week for another exciting episode of The Official BNI Podcast.


  1. says

    Once again I am astounded by the brilliance of Dr. Misner! This was a very thought provoking Podcast.

    Through BNI, I have found that helping others achieve their success is the fastest way to your own success.

    My definition of success is: the linear distance in all aspects of your life from your starting point to the point of your own contentment and beyond. When your success is valued by another person, the person will value it from their point of contentment and not yours.

    These are the moments that I realize the incredible value of my BNI membership. Through Dr. Misner’s education and mentoring, I have not only prospered financially but also as a person. I am grateful!

  2. says

    Okay first I have to say that I think this was a great podcast. I work hard and smarter each and every day. Each day I do my best to work on my number one work in progress me. Each day I do my best to help and assist everyone I can. In truth I have to admit it is making me a little better as a person. However it is hard sometimes to continue as I have found that it is the road less traveled by most. I will keep the faith and stay the course. Keeping my eyes and ears open to all opportunity. My graduating class out of HS was a little over 1000 kids in 15 years about half of them had passed away. I am still here and healthy. Even after 22 years in the Marine Corp and years in law enforcement.

  3. Schuyler Scarborough says

    As a new member in BNI I can’t believe this first podcast that I hear hits so close to home. The one inspirational print I have is about SUCCESS it is defined as the “achievement of intention” but for Dr. Misner to sum this definition up into goal that everyone should have in there daily life’s. The “uncommon application of common knowledge”. Looks like I will be reading a book soon… Masters of Success. Thanks for sharing

  4. says

    Thank you for such a great podcast. To me success is a state of mind, a feeling of fulfilment in every moment in life. A feeling of gratitude toward things we have. For instance, I feel successful when I do a 5 minute presentation for my chapter and everybody clapping their hands. I feel successful when did a training where all my participants feft energized and transformed their lives. Everyday I do my gratitude exercise and I list the things I am grateful for and the things I am happy about. To me that is success.

  5. says

    As a psychotherapist, I’ll go with one of Freud’s measures of mental health for my definition of success: Satisfaction in love, work, and play. That’s a life in balance. I absolutely agree with the idea of an uncommon application of common knowledge as a way to work toward goals. Helpful podcast that I’ll be using on Thursday in my educational segment in my BNI chapter. Thanks!

  6. Hsing-Hui Huang says

    1. Success is to help members in BNI to break through the invisible walls between and connect them together.
    By Smart Shieh – the executive director from Taipei, Taiwan

    2. Success is to start up, persist and make it sustainable.
    By Happy Jan – the charter District Governor of Happy English Club

    3. Success is to believe in the unbelievable and conquer it.
    By Larry Hung – The founder of the first platinum chapter when started up in Taipei, Taiwan

    4. Success is to live the best of you and fulfill your goal with your inherent talent.
    By Joyce – the training director of Hold Fortune

    5. Success is to live splendid in every minute and second of your life.
    By Delton – the executive director of the north west district in New Taipei

    6. Success is being able to teach what I’ve comprehended from teaching English and help them to achieve their dreams.
    By Hsing-Hui Huang – Billionaire Beauty Educator

    7. Success is to live your greatest contribution and influence.
    By Zeal Chou – Photographer and Fashion Designer

  7. says

    This episode left me just feeling good about the world and the possibilities that are open to all of us. I became a member after just a few months in business. The group has helped me learn about what it really means to be a business professional as well as giving me the connections to help my business prosper.

    I also think that Ivan’s summation of a true key to success is the uncommon application of common knowledge. To truly walk the talk requires a lot of discipline and focus. What a lot of people have discussed is to set goals and then achieve them as a level of success. Ivan talks about patience to achieve success because it takes time. He talks about being happy as a measure of success. I wanted to put those two together because enjoyment of the process of taking an idea and turning it into reality is a journey. The enjoyment of the journey seems to me to be one of the most important factors in success. I am sure I have read somewhere that if you boil all goals down enough it ultimately comes down to making yourself happy but if you can’t enjoy the process of acquiring your goals then what was the point in the first place.

    I know Ivan like metaphors and I could easily equate this to one of my passions which is rock climbing. You have a very distinct goal to accomplish which is very personal to you and your experience and ability level. There are times in the climb that can be scary, painful and leave you wanting to quit because it is too hard. If you left those emotions overwhelm you it takes away from the experience and makes the goal that much harder to accomplish. If you enjoy the challenge and keep focus on what you know you have to do you can move through that climb and accomplish your goal. The tougher the challenge the greater the satisfaction in completing it. When I have a tough problem to overcome I like to say it is “An interesting and challenging problem.” That is the mindset that I find leaves me enjoying the process as well as the the accomplishments.

    Mike Bleier
    Applied Cabling Technologies, LLC
    Twin State BNI – Lebanon, NH

  8. Ajit Sakhardande says

    Success is all that you wished yesterday, accomplished today, and realise tomorrow that it was too small with a big lot still to be done.

Solutions-focused comments are welcome