The opposite of success is

Before we get started… If you read my last post about human trafficking and sex slavery, you need to see how much money was raised at Passion in Atlanta, GA by young people who “shouldn’t” have any money to give! Click here and here.


A few weeks ago I posed a question to Facebook friends and Twitter followers to get a gauge on how our generation views success.  I was pleasantly surprised by the quality answers I received!  Though it was a very small population of responses, I got the range of answers I predicted.  Here was the question I posed:

How would you complete the following sentence?  The opposite of success is ________

Before we get into the results (the good, the bad, the right, the wrong), let me provide some principles of success which I have I picked up in the last two years of pursuing such knowledge.  These are by no means gospel – just principles I utilize.  They may differ from what you have heard or been taught.

  1. Success has a personalized definition.  You decide what success means, what it looks like, and how much of it you want.  This truth coupled with Abundance Mentality reveals a pretty amazing  outlook on success.  Everyone has a different definition.  They guy next to you does not want or desire the same success you do.  The same goes for the guy next to him, and the lady next to him, and the lady next to her, etc.  There is an abundance of the success you define.
  2. There is no such thing at the Road to Success, because success is not a destination.  You never “arrive.”  Success is a mindset.  Thus, you are on Success Road as soon as you choose to be.  You can live it out daily!
  3. Anything and everything in life you think is worth having requires effort.  If you are looking for freebies, handouts, or bailouts you have somehow made a left turn off of Success Road.  Huh, isn’t that a funny little truth (see the current status of our nation’s economy… and Europe).

Alright, based on what answers I received there is pretty solid understanding (among my friends and acquaintances) of what success is not.  However, there is one totally wrong definition.  The absolutely wrong way to complete the phrase is:

The opposite of success is failure.

Only 2 of 10 responses filled in the blank with the word, failure.  Not too bad of a percentage.  However, it that answer is wrong.  Failure is not the opposite of success.  In fact, failure and success are very closely tied together.  They play off each other very often as people make choices, even daily.  The “good” answers included:

The opposite of success is inaction.
The opposite of success is fear of failure.
The opposite of success is not to try.
The opposite of success is never attempting.

These answers are highlighting the fact that if you never get started, you never give yourself a chance.  This is so true.  Think about a baseball player who never steps up to the plate for an at bat.  If they never swing at pitch, their batting average will be .000 and they will never experience success at the plate.  Despite these good answers, they only address half of the problem people experience on their way to success.  It also hints at a scary attitude among Generation Y.  That is, all you have to do is try and you can consider it a success.  Is this a reflection of Generation Y’s entitlement mentality?  We’ll save that question for a different post.

Before we unveil the most correct answer(s), I must give a shout out to my dear friend from college who answered with, “Depauw University football.”  While this answer is factual and true, it misses the point I am trying to make.  Thanks Don!  This answer made me laugh – Wabash Always Fights!  So, without further adieu, the best answers are:

The opposite of success is quitting.
The opposite of success is quit.

Yes!  Now, these answers really get at the heart of being successful!  Quit, or quitting, is the opposite of success.  These answers put success into the context of the 3 principles I shared above: pursuing success as you define it, Success Road not Road to Success, and applying concentrated effort.  Being that you are in the hunt (you have stepped up to the plate and you are swinging) things are going to happen.  Resistance, mistakes, hurdles, failure, and um… LIFE will happen.  To quit, you have to start and experience failure.  To succeed, you have to adjust, innovate, learn, and get back up after failure.  I phrase I came across recently which I love is: Fail Forward.  This is where success and failure become closely tied.  Failures are actually opportunities for success!  A business owner I greatly respect has a favorite teaching from Think and Grow Rich.  It is really good.  It basically says, there is a seed of equal or greater reward in every obstacle, problem, or failure.  That reward is success and more.

Action to take: define your success.

WARNING: Experiencing success as you define it can be extremely enjoyable and lead to hunger for other, more meaningful things.  Success will grow you into something you may not have expected, and you’ll say, “Wow.  Praise God.”  Your dreams may become larger – like the dreams you had as a child.  Success can also cause one to take risks which in turn may produce a greater benefit.  If it does not produce greater benefit, it may lead to you failure… and getting back up, adjusting, improving, having faith… and thus, succeeding once again.  It’s a vicious cycle.  Fair warning.


2 thoughts on “The opposite of success is

  1. gramathorn says:

    Hey tjwrldtrvlr,

    I enjoyed the post. Judging by the rest of the blog, it looks like you are involved in some pretty cool projects these days. Good for you. I choose failure as my answer to your question for a couple reasons. I have a few comments by way of response to your blog as well as some of the reasoning for my answer.

    For the most part, I think I agree with your three principles. Although, I must admit I’ve never read “Success Road.” Success is personalized, its chosen however, and it requires action; sounds pretty good to me.

    If failure is not the opposite of success, I would certainly like to know what you think failure is. You say: “To quit, you have to start and experience failure.” Apparently it can be experienced, so what is it?

    You say that success is a “personalized definition” that can mean whatever you want it to mean. But then you affirmatively say that failure is not the opposite of success. What if my personalized definition of success is that concept whose opposite is failure? If you affirmatively state what can and cannot be the opposite of success, you’ve indirectly defined success itself.

    I completely agree that success is personalized. Success can be any object of the will. I would argue, however, that the complete negation (what I call opposite) of that object of the will is failure. Presumably the baseball player who steps up to the plate has some goal or object of the will in mind when he does so. This object of the will could be anything from the sheer act of stepping up to the plate itself or his conception of success could be a home run hit. Either way, there is a clear object of the will, the negation of which is failure. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that failure denotes “bad” or that success denotes “good.” I merely think success and failure stand for concepts of the human will.

    Also, I’m not sure you can rank answer for the opposite of success unless you are willing to rank answers for success itself. In particular, I’m confused as to why quitting would be considered the opposite of success. There are a multitude of examples where someone might consider the act of quitting a success. I don’t think that the heroin addict who ‘quits’ using drugs would say that he is experiencing the ‘opposite of success.’ That is, assuming that by ‘opposite’ we are talking about the complete negation of achieving the object of one’s will.

    I think the most interesting answer is inaction. When I first read that answer I didn’t think much of it for much the same rationale I gave for quitting. For example, take a man engaged in a hunger strike who is offered a cheeseburger. He refuses to eat the burger, which appears to be inaction. (He likely hasn’t taken any physical action at least). Yet, he is still affirmatively acting by resisting the urge to eat the burger. That is to say, his will is acting positively in resisting the desire to eat the burger. I guess that leads me to the question, can there ever be such a thing as inaction?

    Anyway, I’ve rambled on long enough with these random thoughts. Hope all is well man.


    • Hey dude! Thanks for engaging in this post. I really appreciate it!

      Let me offer a little context in the purpose of this blog. Follow me Gen Y! exists to expose our generation to some information and education they may not find in higher ed. Further, I hope it provides thought process and promotes action to improve the current state of our country. Thus, I wrote this specific post within the framework of United States culture. Admittedly, in other parts of the world and in certain bodies of thought in this country, success is identified uniquely. As a whole, this blog exists to be motivational, thought provoking (again, thanks for the comment!), and world changing.

      Success Road is a theme I found in the book, Make It the Big Time Where You Are by Frosty Westering. It is meant to point out that success is not a destination. It is not a destination because you never “arrive” at a level of success with no where else to go. There is always something next: a new challenge, wanting more, new opportunity, etc. Dr. John Maxwell teaches this principle as well. The win of Success Road is in mindset.

      I think failure looks like many things. To the point though, failure is falling short. Failure is not meeting a goal. Much like an achievement (which may be the opposite of failure) failure is temporary.

      Inaction is an interesting answer indeed. In my opinion, the person desiring success is in pursuit of that success which they have defined. Inaction is a mute point because those who are driven understand action must be taken.

      All is well man! Chasing my dreams – in hot pursuit! Thanks so much!


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