Using Gratefulness to Reframe Your Definition of Success

A few months ago, my life’s work was finally realized. One random weekday afternoon just driving down the road — out of nowhere I realized… holy shit, I’m successful. Just like that. A life changing realization as boring and meaningless as it sounds. After more than ten years of hard work, focus, and uncertainty. There was no big check. No contract or deal. No “Eureka!” moment I’d always envisioned. Still, the same feeling of relief was there.

To be clear, I haven’t made millions. And I’m still driving around in the same car I’ve had for almost ten years. That said, I’m living a dream that I’ve had for most of my life. I’ve built a company that started out as a crazy idea in my head. I’m making a comfortable living doing what I love. I’m surrounded by a team of incredible people. And most importantly, I’m happy. How the hell did this happen?

Chris Nardone, CEO and Founder of Venture Music

Let’s start by literally defining the word success. Because at this point, most of us are more than aware of the paradox American culture has created. Constantly associating the word success with two things: money and power. Still, most of us struggle to shake this uninformed and naive perception. By definition, success: “the accomplishment of an aim or purpose” is an idea. One that is unique to every one of us. And one that has absolutely nothing to do with money. Of course, no one struggling to pay their bills would consider themselves successful. At the same time, most of us would say our purpose in life isn’t really to have millions of dollars. So then why do we spend so much time associating success with wealth?

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In my own pursuit of success, I’ve developed an obsession with learning about other people’s success. Success stories are always centered around two ideas: Hard Work (actually putting in the hours) and Consistency (never giving up). If you look hard enough though, there’s a third, arguably more important, component of success. One that’s a constant in the stories of successful people yet is rarely highlighted: Gratefulness.

Everyone, literally everyone, you and I consider successful has built their career on the same foundation. The people we respect and admire who have overcome the odds following their dreams. Before they had the power, money, or fame. Even through the darkest of times. They all maintained an unusually positive outlook as they persevered and made it to the top.

Unlike hard work and consistency, gratefulness is extremely hard to fake by going through the motions. But just like the other two, gratefulness is a choice. A skill that is developed through habit. It goes hand in hand with passion. It manifests itself in so many different ways. It can be seen as a generally positive attitude, a willingness to help, respect for opportunities, appreciation for the work of others. It’s what enables years and sometimes decades of thankless and tireless work. It attracts people to your vision and just makes them want to be around you. But above all else, being grateful is the key to maintaining a healthy vision for success.

While I’ve never been gifted a trust fund or been shown the back-door entrance for much of anything, I am extremely lucky. I was raised by a family that prioritized education, and I was given confidence at an early age that I could do anything I wanted to do with my life. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that there are billions of people alive right now that would give anything to: a) know from experience what truly makes them happy and b) actually be in a position to spend their life doing it — which makes me very, very lucky.

If you’re someone who is also lucky enough to be pursuing their passion as a career, be grateful. Don’t get sucked into believing you’re also entitled to being rich. Always remember, when you love what you do. And you wholeheartedly appreciate the opportunity to do it. You’ve already figured out the intangible parts of success. All you have to do from there is put in the work and keep showing up.

On your own journey to success, it’s important to also remember perfection isn’t the goal. No one should aspire to work 14 hours a day. Or to show up to the office seven days a week. Nor should anyone aspire to be constantly stuck in a world of unicorns and rainbows.

Challenge yourself but know your limits.


Chris Nardone is the CEO and Founder of Venture Music, a music marketing collective based in Nashville, TN. Learn more at

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