Defining success can be a difficult thing.
Some people believe it has to do with the dollar sign. Others cite happiness, personal health or strong relationships. Athletes measure success by wins and losses, while teachers might measure success by improvement in their students' performance.
But if we really want to understand what success is, and what standards we should set for ourselves, it makes sense to listen to (and learn from) the stories of the people we look up to the most. Their paths may have been winding. Their lessons the product of years of hard work. But they did it, and they're kind enough to share with us how.
Here are seven game-changing rules for success from people who made their mark.
1. Steve Jobs
Jobs once said, "Things don't have to change the world to be important."
That's an important lesson in time management and staying happy. Just because you aren't inventing the next iPhone doesn't mean what you're doing is without worth. Taking a walk in the park or catching up with an old friend may not change the course of history, but that doesn't mean you should value it any less than you do.
2. Tina Fey
"Whatever the problem, be part of the solution," she once said. "Don't just sit around raising questions and pointing out obstacles."
You may know Tina Fey as a popular comedic actress, a woman who fields offer after offer and gets to pick which roles she'd like to take. But that's not how it's always been. Fey got her start in a comedic improv group, and then transitioned into a writer on Saturday Night Live. Only after that did she start attracting interest from people who wanted her on television. Becoming a household name took years and years of long hours and well-written punchlines.
Her story is just proof that you don't know what path you'll take to hit the goals you've set out for yourself.
3. Michael Jordan
"I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career," Jordan said. "I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."
The story of Michael Jordan's perseverance sounds like folklore, but it's actually true: The greatest basketball player of all-time didn't even make his junior varsity basketball team the first time he tried out. Jordan, who later became famous for trying to win everything all the time (even beating his teammates to the water fountain in practice), rose to the top with good ol' fashioned hard work, early mornings and late nights in the gym.
4. Arianna Huffington
"We think, mistakenly, that success is the result of the amount of time we put in at work, instead of the quality of time we put in."
Arianna Huffington has made a name for herself not just by having one of the biggest news organizations in the world, but by running it in a unique way. Huffington's book Thrive is a deep dive into how to measure your success not just by what you do in the office, but by how happy and healthy you are. Her efforts to put her own mental health ahead of financial success is a trend that's catching on in young companies all over the world. The basic logic is that if the company you work for is thriving but you are miserable, then you are not succeeding.
"Do the one thing you think you cannot do. Fail at it. Try again. Do better the second time. The only people who never tumble are those who never mount the high wire. This is your moment. Own it."
Considered the richest black American of the 20th century, Oprah is best known for her hit talk show The Oprah Winfrey Show. But before her fame and fortune, she was born into poverty in Mississippi to an unmarried, teenage mother. Oprah's success began with the attitude that you have to understand and appreciate what you have, and that focusing on what you lack will only leave you feeling like you never have enough.
Own who you are, and what you do. This is your moment.
6. Mark Cuban
"What I've learned is that if you really want to be successful at something, you'll find that you put the time in. You won't just ask somebody if it's a good idea, you'll go figure out if it's a good idea."
Mark Cuban is almost as well-known for his rough-around-the-edges demeanor as his incredible knack for investing. The Dallas Mavericks owner is now a staple of the television show Shark Tank. But before all that, Cuban was a bartender and then a sales representative at a computer software firm. It was only after being fired from his job that he decided to branch off and work on his own company, MicroSolutions, a company that became the foundation of all his future ventures.
Cuban is proof that some things, even being let go from your job, could be a blessing in disguise.
7. Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield
Ben: "Business has never had improving the quality of life of the general public as one of its priorities. We decided to redefine the bottom line at Ben & Jerry's."
Jerry: "If you open up the mind, the opportunity to address both profits and social conditions are limitless. It's a process of innovation."
Starting a business can be a terrifying thing. Especially if you have, say, only a few thousand dollars to spend on it. But for Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, the name behind the now world-famous Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, that wasn't enough to scare them off. The duo only had $8,000 in savings and a $4,000 loan, and with that they brought the first ice cream shop to Burlington, Vermont. 20 years later, they're changing lives across the world with their dedication to their employees' own success (and with their delicious ice cream).