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Merriam-Webster, Take Note: Time to Revise the Definition of Success

Strayer University’s “Success Project Survey” finds that 90 percent of Americans believe success is more about happiness than power, possessions, or prestige

HERNDON, Va.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Strayer University, a leading postsecondary institution for working adults, today released findings from its national “Success Project Survey,” which was conducted to determine what success means to Americans today. In addition to fulfilling personal goals, Strayer found that 90 percent of Americans believe that success is defined by happiness, more so than money, power or fame. Likewise, success is most often defined as attaining personal goals (67 percent), having good relationships with family and friends (66 percent), and loving what you do for a living (60 percent). Those who consider themselves to be successful are more likely to say they have a strong/supportive family network (54 percent) than they are to describe themselves as being ambitious (31 percent). The research also uncovered that only one in five Americans surveyed feel monetary wealth is what defines success. The survey, along with a new video series from YouTube sensation SoulPancake, explores the concept of success, and seeks to illustrate the many paths to and definitions of success that exist today.

“From having a happy family to finding a fulfilling career, each person sees, defines, and pursues success differently.”

“Over the last several decades, we have seen a shift in how Americans perceive and pursue success, driven by economic, social and cultural changes,” said Dr. Michael Plater, president of Strayer University. “Our institution, for example, was founded in 1892 to help adult workers succeed in a post-Industrial Revolution era that required new business and management skills. Today our mission remains the same: to help working adult students identify the personal and professional goals that will lead them to achieve their own definition of success, and celebrate milestones along their unique journeys. Our goal in conducting the Success Project Survey was to spark a much-needed national conversation about success and show that no ‘one size fits all’ definition exists.”

Celebrating more than 120 years since its founding in Baltimore, Strayer University offers relevant and rigorous academic programs to working adults, first-generation college students and others who may not have had access to higher education, preparing them for success in today’s competitive job market. Strayer University graduates earn degrees in programs ranging from business administration and accounting to education and information systems.

Strayer University’s national success-focused survey is one piece of the University’s overarching ‘Success Project,’ a new initiative aimed at breaking down perceived barriers that can keep individuals from succeeding in their personal and professional lives. In addition to a year-long partnership with talk show host Steve Harvey, the campaign features an inspirational SoulPancake video series exploring the topic of success and the introduction of professional ‘Success Coaches,’ who will provide Strayer University students with mentoring, support and assistance for students regarding financial advice, goal setting, career advice, time management, and other skills.

The Success Project Survey findings highlight the critical role that personal connections and achievements play in today’s definition of success, a departure from current definitions, including Merriam-Webster’s “fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect, or fame.” In fact, the survey found that at least six in ten Americans believe success means attaining personal goals (67 percent), having good relationships with family and friends (66 percent), and loving what you do for a living (60 percent). These results have come to life in the new four-part video series produced by Strayer University and SoulPancake, creators of the critically acclaimed Kid President series.

  • “Definition of Success” asks people of all backgrounds what it means to truly be successful. (Debuted Aug. 19)
  • “Success Coach” asks Strayer University students to identify individuals in their lives who have been essential to their success and then surprises them with a unique and moving opportunity to thank selected individuals on the spot. (Debuts Aug. 26)
  • “Share a Cup of Success” encourages two strangers to sit inside a larger-than-life pop-up coffee cup and candidly share their personal paths to success. (Debuts Sept. 2)
  • “Shout it Out” invites passersby to overcome the fears that are holding them back from success by proudly proclaiming their career dreams and goals into a giant megaphone placed in the middle of a busy city plaza. (Debuts Sept. 9)

“The Success Project video series poignantly illustrates that no one should live their lives according to another person’s view of success. Each individual we met while making these videos came from vastly different backgrounds and had vastly different goals,” said Shabnam Mogharabi, CEO of SoulPancake. “From having a happy family to finding a fulfilling career, each person sees, defines, and pursues success differently.”

For more information about Strayer University’s Success Project, visit www.strayer.edu/buzz or follow the conversation on Twitter at #StrayerSuccess. To view the Success Project videos on SoulPancake’s YouTube channel, visit: www.youtube.com/soulpancake.

Research conducted by Ipsos

These are findings from an Ipsos poll conducted for Strayer University from August 5-12, 2014. For the survey, a sample of 2,011 Americans ages 18+ were interviewed online. The precision of the Strayer/Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 2.2 percentage points for all adults. Survey findings marked with an asterisk (*) in this release indicate findings for which an audience is significantly higher than the corresponding group.

About Strayer University

Strayer University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and has been in operation since 1892. The University offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs in business administration, accounting, economics, information systems, information technology, human resource management, education, health services administration, public administration, management and criminal justice to working adult students. Strayer University also offers an executive MBA online through its Jack Welch Management Institute. For more information, visit www.strayer.edu or call 1-888-4-STRAYER (888-478-7293).

About SoulPancake

SoulPancake, which has more than 1.2 million YouTube subscribers and nearly 150 million views, is a new media company, founded by actor Rainn Wilson. SoulPancake encourages individuals to explore ‘Life’s Big Questions’ through thought-provoking videos, elevated conversations, and creative and engaging activities.

***MEDIA NOTE: Please contact Cristina Henley at cristina.henley@strayer.edu, work: (703) 561-1913, or cell: (703) 431-3691 for media interviews related to Strayer University’s Success Project.


Strayer University
Cristina Henley
Work: 703-561-1913
Cell: 703-431-3691