Leadership

How do Americans quantify success?

A player of the Czech Republic holds the trophy after beating Russia in the gold medal game at the Ice Hockey World Championships in Cologne May 23, 2010.  REUTERS/Petr Josek  (GERMANY - Tags: SPORT ICE HOCKEY IMAGES OF THE DAY)

This is how America defines and quantifies success and what this means for the average person. Image: REUTERS/Petr Josek (GERMANY - Tags: SPORT ICE HOCKEY IMAGES OF THE DAY)

Jeff Desjardins
Founder and editor, Visual Capitalist
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Leadership

The pursuit of success is a part of our cultural DNA.

Almost everyone wants to be successful – and many see it as the basis of the American Dream, which promises that every person can achieve success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative.

However, despite a drive for obtaining success in our culture, the meaning of success isn’t fixed. It can be different things to different people, and there is no possible way of defining success in a way that is representative of every individual person.

Quantifying success

Although there’s no objective definition of success, there are other ways to arrive at a more impartial meaning.

Today’s infographic from Thermosoft uses data from a survey of 2,000 Americans to show what “making it” means to them – and in the process, it gives us a baseline for what success means to the average person.

Survey respondents were asked what “making it” in America meant to them, and then that was compared to what they have.

A variety of individual factors were measured, and each fell within certain categories that could be important to one’s success, including career, family life, wealth, and travel.

Success, on average

The survey data gives us a view of what success means, on average – and how close people are to “making it”.

Money
Respondents viewed $147,104 of income as “successful”, and this is the area people were furthest away from their ideal.

The average income of respondents was $57,426 – and 67% of respondents said that money was the major missing part of their equation for success.

Work
Respondents viewed 31 hours of work per week, a 10 minute commute, 5.3 weeks of time off, and working more from home as their ideal situation.

However, respondents were a little off on most of these measures, and far off for vacation time. The average person is working 34 hours per week, commuting 17 minutes, taking 2.8 weeks of time off, and working more from the office.

Notably, for 22% of people, a dream job was the missing part of their success equation.

Friends and Family
Respondents viewed marriage and kids, as well as four best friends, as ideal. On average, respondents fell slightly short here, though.

Property
How much would your home and vehicle be worth, if you “made it”? About $461,000 and $41,986 respectively.

Respondents fell short here, with $248,000 and $15,789 values for their home and vehicle.

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What's missing?

Since success is subjective, the sense of what is “missing” varies considerably.

On average, income was the most important missing factor (67%) and a dream job was also a popular response (22%). Relationships and recognition were both 7%, respectively.

Answers also varied by group – for example, millennials were more likely to say their dream job was the missing factor.

While success may never be defined exactly for all people at all times, this is still an interesting amalgamation of the views that people have towards the subject.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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