What is success? Coaching over the past ten years has taught me something. Clients know success when they see it. But oftentimes they cannot define success for themselves. This can lead to frustration, envy and eventually, giving up.

A client of mine was doing very well with his business.  Financially solvent, strong contractual relationships, impeccable reputation.  Despite that, he did not feel as if he was successful.  How was that possible?

Easy.  He was missing an important ingredient: an understanding of where all this was taking him.  What was missing?  A focus future. He hadn’t taken the time to consider a key question: what was he envisioning?

If we work just to prove we are able, that sense of success will elude us.  If we work toward something that is bigger and beyond ourselves, then success becomes possible.  Such a strange conundrum that creates!  A desire to be successful requires — almost demands — that we reach for the bigger and the more that is not possible just for self.

What happened for this client?  He started to delegate.  To let go.  To reposition his business for future sale so that it becomes sustainable without him.  That, he realized, was success for him.  And now, he does all the same things, but for very different reasons.  It is impacting the decisions and the reasons for those decisions.  It is impacting who he hires, and why.   It is impacting how he communicates what he wants done, how he negotiates contracts.   Because it’s no longer about proving himself, but about true success that is bigger than self, the client is starting to see significant shifts in his business, and in his personal life, as well. Big wins are coming out of small tweaks as a result of a shift in focus.  And it’s all leading to a sense of fulfillment — of success.

It can happen on the smallest or the grandest of scale. For instance, Apple has done an amazing job of leveraging a tight focus to create business success.

After being fired by the company he founded, Steve Jobs would eventually return to change the course of the company’s history. He quickly jumped on the MP3 player concept, taking a mostly-unknown idea and creating the iPod. This device skyrocketed Apple to tech stardom, and led, eventually, to the iPhone, which would lead the then-fledgling smartphone market for the better part of a decade.

Why did Apple find a level of success with digital music devices and smartphones that others did not? It was all about focus. Many saw the opportunity for both types of devices, but Apple set themselves apart by intentionally focusing on the user experience — the interface with which the customer actually interacts. In many ways, they sacrificed function for simplicity, and it drove the company to heights of which they likely had not dreamed.

If there is a secret to success, it’s simply “focus.”  Wherever you focus your attention and energy, there you will find growth. If your focus is broad, your growth will be broad, but shallow. If your focus is narrow, your growth will be narrow and deep. Apple has, since the introduction of the iPod, given vast attention to a small set of opportunities at a carefully measured pace. The public continues to eat them up.

“Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Likewise, where your focus lies, there will your growth be also.  And as you find your focus, you will find hidden treasure.