“Dad how come you’re not successful anymore?”

These words cut me to the core.

I am not sure my 13-year old son, Ryan, fully appreciated the power of those words as they blew away all pretence and laid my heart open and bleeding. It was a real struggle trying to find the words to describe ‘success’ in a way that would make sense to a young boy growing up in a world where success was all about having a nice home, driving an expensive car, making lots of money, taking great vacations, the number of people reporting to you, what your position was, and the size of the business. 

In the midst of concluding an executive role and launching a new business, my son had the perception that as I was no longer overseeing a multimillion-dollar budget responsible for hundreds of staff, that somehow, I was no longer successful.

As I reflected on this later, I saw the importance of taking my children on a journey—warts and all, as they say—to show them that success can be so much more. To help them examine what lies beneath the words penned by Andre Delbecqby’s, “the failure of success, the corruption of triumph, and the danger of celebrity”. I would add the words “the success of failure”.

I want my children to know that to feel as though you have failed is quite different to having failed at something.

Failing in something does not have to negatively define your future, as it can create many great opportunities for growth and innovation. Feeling as though you are a failure, however, can have devastating consequences that will significantly limit what you can achieve and damage the relationships you need in your life that will help you get there. At the very worst, you often feel very much alone.

Success today is very different to what I imagined it to be starting out thirty-five years ago. How has success changed for you?