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The Many colors of success: what do executives want out of life?

Author: Kets de Vries, Manfred F. R. INSEAD Area: Entrepreneurship and Family Enterprise Series: Working Paper ; 2009/19/EFE/IGLC Publisher: Fontainebleau : INSEAD, 2009.Language: EnglishDescription: 26 p.Type of document: INSEAD Working Paper Online Access: Click here Abstract: This article is based on the responses of 160 senior executives to questions of what success means to them. Eight major categories of success emerged: family, wealth, work/career, recognition/fame, power, winning/overcoming challenges, friendships, and meaning. Experiences of success depended on “intrinsic” or “external” validation, and the inner scripts that these executives had developed while growing up, which influenced their perceptions of success and how they experienced it. The qualities of focus, persistence, and self-mastery, among others, featured in the scripts of many successful people. The darker side of success was partly accounted for by what can be described as the “Faust Syndrome,” the melancholia that follows the sense of everything being completed. What the narratives for most of these executives illustrate, is that success is a journey, not a destination.
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This article is based on the responses of 160 senior executives to questions of what success means to them. Eight major categories of success emerged: family, wealth, work/career, recognition/fame, power, winning/overcoming challenges, friendships, and meaning. Experiences of success depended on “intrinsic” or “external” validation, and the inner scripts that these executives had developed while growing up, which influenced their perceptions of success and how they experienced it. The qualities of focus, persistence, and self-mastery, among others, featured in the scripts of many successful people. The darker side of success was partly accounted for by what can be described as the “Faust Syndrome,” the melancholia that follows the sense of everything being completed. What the narratives for most of these executives illustrate, is that success is a journey, not a destination.

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