The Success vs. Failure Dichotomy is a Lie

Your modern definition of success is wrong

Hannah Kuspira


You are wrong about success.

I’ve learned recently that success is not what I thought it was. Not in the New Age “redefine success” mindfulness type of way. But in the ancient definition of the word “success” type of way.

For years I’ve been chasing the very specific modern definition of success (don’t judge me… you’ve done it too). Success looked like fame, popularity, achievement, financial goals, and global impact. I was striving but never achieving. As Type 3 (achiever) on the Enneagram, it was slowly killing me.

So I went down the mindfulness path. And it definitely helped. But until I recently learned of the lie that today’s definition of success is, I wasn’t sure why.

I believed that success was the opposite of failure. But it’s not (no really, it’s not!).

Success is “the good or bad results of an action”

All it takes is a little reframing of the definition of success.

You need to reframe it based on the ancient or archaic definition of the word. This definition is so much more truthful, important, and relevant to the way we look at the world. I wish I had known it sooner.

Success was initially defined as “the positive or negative result of an action”.

Did you see the word negative? I had to re-read the definition out of shock!

It literally means the outcome.

That’s it, that’s all.

For those of you interested in etymology… here’s a dive into the history of the word

In the 16th century (when it was first introduced to the dictionary) success was neither good nor bad… it could be either. The word was purposefully ambiguous.

You couldn’t see the word “success” and assume that there was something worth celebrating. It didn’t mean that they had achieved something great. There was always a clarifier like “ill success” or “glorious success”. Success did not tell you about the goodness or badness of the result. The word success meant there was



Hannah Kuspira

I write to empower career-minded young people to live a life of prosperity through the pursuit of meaningful work.