How do you measure success in your life? One could say it is money, it is position within a company or in society, maybe having and raising your children, helping other people, knowing a lot about things (or about many things), and so on. For many people probably it is not straightforward to know how successful they are. When you reach a certain age, what are your accountabilities to measure your success? Or maybe, if you are to make a decision about your next stpes, very likely the best one should be the one that maximizes your change to achieve success, ie the best way is the way to increase your rate of success.
It's been always very clear to me, at school, that I should learn and prepare myself to be a successful adult. My accountability was to have the best possible grade. It was quite clear and I successfull at that. I had no doubt about it, and that's been always my focus. That was generally acceptable in society, approved by all parents (include mine), and I had been educated (and accepted) that way.
One of tasks of an adult person is to leave the school and face life from another standpoint, because school, and especially the university, is kind of a Neverland for so many Peter Pan studying there that are either not willing to grow up or do not have the skills and the courage for that. Leaving school, especially for these Peter Pan's, is not easy after you got used to the routine, to the accountabilities, and where you developed all the skills you needed to succeed in that environment. That is particularly difficult for people that didn't face the outer world before graduation. By doing so, they might have developed and/or trained their adaptability skills - what tends to be much easier when younger. With the argument in mind that not working will allow their children to focus and better succeed at school, parents don't envision they may be depriving their children the opportunity to face other challenges and have a broader view of the world. Especially what may lie in their foreseeable future.
Some people still end up staying in the university world because they found what they really love. That is absolutely acceptable and I own my due respect to those that choose this option. Many others, nonetheless, sometimes consciously, but mostly unconsciously, find themselves incapable of adapting to different lifestyles - and their inherent challenges - and stay in the world they already know, in the confort zone. And they not only stay, but they find justification for what they decided to do. And I bet that many of them are not happy and know, deep down, that they failed in understanding other options in life. Fortunately, though harder than it should be had it be done in other more appropriate manner, a substantial portion make through the transition. Then the actual challenge begins.
At this point, one finds so many measure of success that it is hard to distinguish what is the most suitable for his/her life. Usually society/friends/family plays a major role to define this at first - and sometimes that lasts the entire life. But for some people, now the reality really strikes them up and the pursuit of happiness and success start. Depending on the experience and how one gathers and analyzes the information, it is quite possible that nothing will be ever questioned throughout their lives. Others will even focus on something else, on a hobby, on a dream, on other aspect of their lifes and the career will be put aside, leading to long (tedious?) hours at a job or at whatever one decided to do. We are not talking about these people here, but rather those who are persistent and explore many different possibilities in the - maybe endless - task of understanding themselves and what is actually important to them.
After an experience where you see that your initial success measurement is not consistent, you get disappointed. If you believed that always merit wins, you will find out that many times politics will make you more money and climb the career ladder within a corporation more rapidly than merit alone. We also find out that the smartest or hard-working guy is not necessarily the richest one. And many of the rich people are not actually people that live by the same moral standards that you may do. Living by what other people think of your career will not bring satisfaction in the long term either. Plus, depending on other people's opinion or on being flattered to make you feel good about what you do is not sustainable either.
Being brave and being in a position where you can do it, you will initially move to other experiences where you will be able to exercise other success measurements that makes sense to you. And then the circle starts, until you finally realize that all these perceptions boil down to the fact that you must follow your personal criteria to your own success and, although not a sure way to your succes, that is the best you can do. Having criteria that pass part of your happiness responsibility on to other people or criteria that depend fundamentally on them is fragile and, therefore, wrong.
In my opinion, find the criteria within yourself is the best strategy. Dive deep into youself to reflect on your current criteria. If you were to get disconnected from all the reality that surrounds you at any given time, especially from other people, does your life or your career bring the rewards that you are seeking?
Maybe then, after this stage of reflection and change what will indicate your success, the next time you stop and reflect if you have success in your life and how much progress you've been doing, it will be unlikely that you will end up disappointed.