The True Measure of Success

What does it mean to be successful? The word success may draw to mind wealth, power, and glory. But does that measure of success really satisfy the human heart?

Monsignor Stuart Swetland, president of Donnelly College and host of Go Ask Your Father™, recently stopped by A Closer Look™ to discuss the true measure of success, and how he encourages his students to be successful throughout their lives.

“Ultimately, success is in growth in virtue,” Msgr. Swetland said. “Or, another way of putting that is growth in holiness.”

As a college president, Msgr. Swetland is charged with helping students learn, grow, and gain the tools they need to lead successful lives. And while that does include the knowledge, skills, and experiences they gain in the classroom, it also means something much more.

Msgr. Swetland shared with A Closer Look host Sheila Liaugminas how he approaches this topic with incoming freshmen at Donnelly College, saying, “The first day for all of my students, the first time I talk with them, I always begin with the fact that we want to help them become the best version of themselves. And, of course, that’s Matthew Kelly, the great evangelist from Australia. I first heard him use that, and it’s really an expression of the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales. That each and every person has a unique vocation.”

“And so when they become holy, when they become the saints they’re called to be, they become the best version of themselves,” he continued. “And that’s what we try to teach each and every person that comes through Donnelly College. That God created them, they’re fearfully and wonderfully made, God made them for a purpose, and they have a vocation. And part of that vocation is to become a saint, and to discover what one’s particular vocation is, which is the particular way that God wants you to be a saint in the world.”

Because God calls each of us to a unique vocation, that means success might look very different from the outside. A consecrated religious brother or sister who has taken a vow of poverty may be just as successful as a wealthy, influential business leader, so long as each of them are responding to their own call from the Lord. It is not what we get in life that makes us successful, but how we give our lives in the role the Lord has asked us to play.

“What the world would have us believe is worth pursuing is power, wealth, glory, pleasure,” Msgr. Swetland said. “Well, those things aren’t that bad in and of themselves. They’re at best means to an end. We should never pursue as our goal glory or pleasure or wealth or power. Those things may be side consequences of doing your job well, living your vocation to the full.”

So while you may think that glory, wealth, or power are signs you’re on the right track, Msgr. Swetland encouraged listeners to stop and consider not the external signs that the world wants us to look at, but to look inside to the markers of true success.

“Anyone who knows who she is, why she is, knows when they are fulfilling their role – it brings great joy, it brings great pleasure,” he said. “And it may bring recognition, you may be promoted, it may bring financial compensation that is more than you’ve gotten before. But the reason you’re doing it is because it’s what you are called to be. It’s who you are called to be. It’s what God has asked of you.”

Listen to the full conversation below:

A Closer Look airs weekdays at 6:00 p.m. Eastern/3:00 p.m. Pacific on Relevant Radio® and the Relevant Radio App.

Stephanie Foley serves as a Digital Media Producer at Relevant Radio®. She is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, where she studied journalism, and she has worked in Catholic radio for 12 years. Stephanie is a wife, a mother of three boys, and in her free time she enjoys reading, running, and really good coffee. You can find more of Stephanie’s writing at and on the free Relevant Radio mobile app.