Success: what does culture have to do with it?

When I went to the Miami Bal Harbour Mall for a business lunch-meeting a week ago, I knew I entered another world.  And not because of the high couture brands that I saw there — but because of the amount of “plastic” that surrounded me.  Not “plastic” as in credit cards, but “plastic” as in “plastic” people, both women and men.

Those of us without any plastic surgery were in minority in that restaurant.  And since I’ve just recently moved to Miami from Russia — another place on the planet where having plastic surgery often means “you’ve made it” — it got me thinking.  What defines our understanding of success?  What part of our definition of it comes from us as individuals and what part comes from the culture that surrounds us?

When I coach my clients we always look at the set of values that each client holds dear to him/her.  And success as a value comes strongly in almost all of them.  Yet the definitions of it vary widely from client to client.  For some success might be a few billions in the bank, for others — a happy family, for yet others — fame, for … we can go on and on.

So what determines our definitions of success?

I think it’s a combination — a combination that came about as a result of blending our family culture, the culture of the place where we grew up, the culture of the place where we live, the culture of the place where we work, and the culture of people who surround us.  As we go through our lives, some of these influences change, some go away, and others come in.  And our definition of success changes with them.

What do you think?

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6 responses to “Success: what does culture have to do with it?

  1. Margarita, I absolutely agree that the culture(s) we’re exposed to influence our notion of “success” and that what success means to us can change over the years.

    Growing up in the United States, my notion of success was based on external (material) trappings: a high paying job, big house, luxury cars, etc.

    Now, after several years and many life experiences (including being exposed to different cultures), my notion of success is internally-based…

    Am I on my true path? Am I realizing my full potential?

    Am I living out my purpose? Am I *being* in the world who I’m meant to be?

    Am I living out my mission? Am I *doing* in the world what I’m meant to do?

    Am I experiencing optimum well-being in spirit, mind and body?

    Am I fulfilled by close, nurturing relationships in my life?

    Success for me is being happy with who I am, what I’m doing, and the relationships in my life.

  2. One problem many adult children experience is that they don’t always define success the same way their own parents did, which can create a lot of tension between generations in the same family. Or, brothers and sisters don’t always define success the same way, and similar things can happen.

  3. I think definition of success for everyone is greatly influenced by environment they are in. In the end, those whose values are different from the current environment move away from it to a place more fitting. For some people material values determine success and they stay in or move to the busy parts of the planet to make it. For some, spiritual values mean more and they move there. I think international migration is defined by the drive to be successful or to be happy, which is basically the same. Have you seen happy losers? Some people move to Goa or Tibet, and some from Goa to NYC. I agree about the misunderstandings in the family, but change is always painful, especially change in beliefs and thinking. Progress is always accompanied by disbelief and criticizm at least in the beginning. Not all parents understand that children are not supposed to live life like their predecessors lived, that the destiny of the next generation is to make a step forward in the development of the human race by putting the definition of success under doubt and try something else. If families realized this, life would be so much more friendly!

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