Define “Success” Wisely, Please

Steven Barnes
3 min readMay 18, 2023

Cheo Hodari Coker spit so much wisdom yesterday that I can’t wait to go over the transcript and isolate specific bits of wisdom.

One thing was how hard John Singleton’s death hit him. “Twenty five years of movies and he was fine. Three years of working in television killed him.”

Specifically, lack of sleep, and massive stress. Cheo revamped his personal schedule, and now considers running to be a primary part of his day, and makes enough sleep a “must.”

You have to define “success” to include your relationships and health, as well as money or career accomplishment. Once you have defined it carefully, you should be able to “take off your brakes” and go full-tilt boogie without concern for hurting yourself. That means a concrete, measurable goal in EACH of the three arenas.

MEASURABLE. Not a feeling or vague statement like “enough.” But

I will run the Boston Marathon in 2024

I earn 120k in 2024

I have “date night” with my wife every week, and an hour with my kids every day.

MEASUREABLE. One part of our brain (often, the artistic part) works on feelings. The other works with clear, measurable goals.

Other measurable goals would be weight, or hours of sleep, or intermittent fasting three days a week, or calling a friend every day, or writing three pages six days a week. MEASURABLE.



Steven Barnes

Steven Barnes is a NY Times bestselling author, ecstatic husband and father, and holder of black belts in three martial arts.