Define Success Before It Defines You

You’ll Never Get What You Want Until You Know What You Want

Joe Procopio
4 min readMar 6


you sure you want that? image by jcomp

To be successful at anything, you have to define success first. I used to think I always did that until I was recently reminded that I didn’t.

A few weeks back, a colleague and I were talking about working on a project together — something between a fun little time-waster and a billion-dollar empire. This was our third live discussion, and we had come to the conclusion that between us, we had the resources (talent, time, money) to do something excellent.

Then she threw me off balance with the “why?”

“Why would we do this?” She asked. And then she explained that unless we truly had a handle on what success for the project would look like, we couldn’t nail all the uniquely differentiating, preparative aspects of the project that would essentially determine success or failure before we even got off the ground.

Oh yeah, I thought. Let’s make sure we’re not speeding into a brick wall.

Be careful what you ask for

To be 100% honest, until she made me think about it, I would have told you that I had most definitely considered why I wanted to do it, and then I would have listed off a bunch of wrong reasons for my why.

Those reasons would have sounded great in a press release, they just weren’t true. And following them would have directly led to the failure of the project, or at least a lot of unnecessary struggle.

I never would have seen that coming if I didn’t stop — and — think about what my true motivation was.

Years ago, while developing Teaching Startup, my business advice project, I researched and mapped out all the foundational components around starting and running a business. The result was five axes that I came to believe to be “required study” for any startup founder.

One of the five axes was motivation, and I broke the motivation axis down into five broad areas of consideration. Let’s call them reasons for doing what we do.


90% of the time, this is my primary motivation for doing anything, let alone anything in…



Joe Procopio

I'm a multi-exit, multi-failure entrepreneur. NLG pioneer. Building & GROWERS. Write at and More at