- Merriam-Webster, Inc.
WEALTH AND FAME DO NOT DEFINE SUCCESS. Change the definition and support a great cause.
Sign this petition and you’ll help Strayer prove that the dictionary definition of the word success is too narrow and needs to be expanded. For every signature, we’ll make a donation to Dress for Success®. One petition. Two inspiring causes.
Today, Merriam-Webster defines success as “the fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect, or fame.”
That means people with happy families aren’t successful. People who love their jobs aren’t successful. People who set and reach goals like becoming healthier, being a mentor, or helping out in their communities aren’t successful.
But we know that simply isn’t true.
The Strayer University Success Project spent two years asking Americans about success, and nine in 10 of them believe it’s more about happiness than power, possessions or prestige.
Reaching goals. Building relationships. Loving what you do for a living. That’s how Americans talk about success. It’s not a reflection of their bank statements, but of their self-fulfillment. So this initiative is about more than words. It’s about recognizing and celebrating the kind of success we want for our children and ourselves: Less about objects and money. More about people and joy.
WHY WE NEED YOUR HELP
Every year, the dictionary adds words and alters existing definitions. For example, the words jeggings, meme, photobomb, and emoji were all added this year. Merriam-Webster decides what to add and change after tracking the words people use and how they use them, and their decisions are talked and written about. By agreeing that most of us use a different meaning of the word success, you can help us start a nationwide conversation about what it means to be successful.
YOU SIGN, WE DONATE
Helping working adults find personal fulfillment through education is at the heart of Strayer’s mission. When you sign this petition, not only will you help us to literally change the definition of success in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, but Strayer will also make a donation to Dress for Success®, up to a total of $50,000. That way, even if the definition isn’t changed, we’ll still have done something deeply meaningful – helping others to define success for themselves.
About Dress for Success®
Dress for Success® is a global not-for-profit organization that promotes the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and career development tools. Since 1997, Dress for Success® has expanded to more than 140 cities in 20 countries and has helped more than 850,000 women work towards self-sufficiency.
About Strayer University
We’ve been educating working adults since 1892. That’s over 120 years of helping people to advance their lives. Today, we offer convenient campuses, evening and weekend courses, and the flexibility to learn online, anytime. We’re also respected, recognized, and accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Our student support and dedication to career-relevant education have helped over 100,000 students succeed in earning their undergraduate and graduate degrees.
About the Research
Our findings stem from a poll conducted by Ipsos for Strayer University from August 5-12, 2014, in which 2,011 Americans ages 18+ were interviewed online.
- Merriam-Webster, Inc.
105,000 people signed a petition and started a movement.
People from all walks of life - CEOs, athletes, plumbers, celebrities, dancers, academics, high school dropouts, rich, poor, children, parents, and more – however you define them, all agree that the current definition of success could use some work.
It’s not easy to ignore 105,000 people. Even the White House – an institution that is constantly bombarded with requests – has a policy of responding to any petition that receives more than 100,000 signatures. But, we haven’t heard from you, Merriam-Webster, and we’d really like to.
In 2014, Strayer University set out to discover what Americans really think about success. After we conducted a survey, we found out that 90 percent of the American public believes that success is more about happiness than power, money, or fame.
We kept asking people to define success throughout the following year. We asked children what they wanted in life and found that they valued their friendships and happiness over fame and fortune. We elicited feedback from some of the most respected business leaders in the country and they told us having a purpose and self-fulfillment is what makes them successful. We talked to athletes and celebrities and found that their versions of success weren’t much different.
These sentiments, though, are quite different than Merriam-Webster’s current definition of success:
The fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect, or fame.
We began to wonder what kind of effect this definition had on people. We asked people to rate their own success. It was hard – watching these individuals grow despondent and defeated as they judged themselves as unsuccessful in terms of money and prestige. But then we asked people in their lives to rate their success instead. And, as they watched their loved ones enter the room holding up their ratings, their faces lit up. They were beaming. Their pride was restored.
Success without happiness isn’t success at all. Defining success means listening to people – all of them. And when you ask them about their greatest aspirations and most valued achievements they always mention their friends or their family. They talk about what’s truly important in their lives not about monetary or material gains.
We set out to redefine success and, ironically, we were successful by your definition. We have won the respect of 105,000 people and countless media mentions have made sure that we’re famous for it. We started to change the conversation around what it means to be successful. But we’re not happy. And while this is not a requirement for your definition, Merriam-Webster, happiness is important to us.
Success, to us, is simple:
Happiness derived from good relationships, and achieving personal goals.
This is the definition that we proposed and 105,000 people stand with us.
105,000 people declare that the way we define success is important.
105,000 people want success to be a reflection of America’s values.
If you’re reading this and you, too, believe that the way we define success is worth standing up for, check out http://buzz.strayer.edu/success-series/1-university-105000-people-asked-question-whats-answer continue to sign the petition, and share this letter on social media.
And to you, Merriam-Webster, we implore you: listen closely to the voices of people who want to be more than your definition of success. Read the comments and watch the videos. Stand with us and let’s make it official. Help make us successful… by our definition.
Strayer University started this petition with a single signature, and now has 105,045 supporters. Start a petition today to change something you care about.