A very close friend of mine recently blogged about one’s inclination to phrase everything as absolutes in a post titled “Relative to What?”. Take “I am successful.”

It is always refreshing to be reminded about my proclivity to yield to groupthink and my myopic definition of life. I tend to think like those around me at that time. For instance, historically, my definition of success has patterned itself on my surroundings. When I lived and worked in rural upstate NY in a small town called Houghton, success was how much free time I had to go creek-walking or doing stupid human tricks on the floor of my apartment with close friends. When I moved to Buffalo and started commuting to Boston once a month, success was the next big contract.

Today, I am involved in an IVR company at a time when telephony is seeing a paradigm shift and success, suddenly, isn’t our recent CBS and WebMD contracts, but rather how successful we are in pioneering new frontiers in VoIP application delivery.

Why is it that that which was once good enough, no longer is?

My wife always tells me, “You’re never content because you shift your frame of reference all the time.” It’s hard to not scratch your competitive itch when a 30 year-old is doing cooler stuff than you or the suits you hang out with are making more money than you. You get caught up; myopia sets in; you stand patterned.

That’s when, like Akshay states in his blog, “Information exposure alone is…powerful.” Powerful in letting you see past yourself. You take stock of those who are not in the group you model yourself after. I think about my good friends living good lives that are (in their own right) patterned differently. I realize they too struggle with defining life and success. And I realize their journey of definition is alien to me as will be their destination.

What you do, what makes you happy, what gets you going - it’s all relative to your reference point. I breathe deep and remind myself to not take things in my life too seriously. What is success? You have nothing to prove to yourself because nothing, after all, can be proven. What’s more, I smirk knowing that if I encounter failure, I always have the option to redefine what my success is about on-the-fly and (by deft slight of hand) my failure is no more a failure!

Defining what you’re about is arbitrary and pegged to an arbitrary standard - both controlled by you. And only you measure yourself. So, am I successful? Don’t know - relative to what?