The most coveted object of desire, the one thing we are all running after – success.

As Christopher Morley rightly said, “there is only one success – to be able to spend your life in your own way.

For me, success might mean traveling around the world without being tied down to one place; for you, it might be building the biggest empire of industries. Ultimately, it signifies one thing and one thing only – freedom!

No matter how different our goals may be from each other, achieving success requires one to go through certain stages in life.

I cannot tell you how to achieve your own brand of success; you are the only one who can decide that. What I can tell you is what you are going to come across in your beautifully difficult journey.

Survival – The Foundation

Today, you are at the beginning of the race, and you have to do what mankind has been doing since the beginning of time – survive. The initial stages of a journey are always the toughest. In fact, the sweeter the success, the worse the struggle.

This is the phase when life will challenge you to keep going every single day. For instance, if you are setting up a business, you will be earning little or no money, but spending quite a lot.

You might have to keep your day job and struggle through each day. Or you might have to devote all your time to your company, but making little progress. Ben Horowitz, co-founder of Loudcloud and Opsware, once said, “As a startup CEO, I slept like a baby. I woke up every two hours and cried”.

We are known as the ‘startup generation’. For us, entrepreneurship means cool offices, late nights with pizzas and beer, beanbags instead of uncomfortable chairs, and going to office in t-shirts and denims.

Any successful entrepreneur will tell you that walking on your own path would mean sleepless nights, broke days, no surety of whether you would be able to make rent, and yet, no clue whether all these sacrifices are actually leading you somewhere.

Sounds scary? Well, nobody said it would be easy. At this stage, you have to keep your vision crystal clear, and hang on to dear life every single day. At this stage, you have to remember what Harry Crews said – ‘survival is triumph enough’.

The Slow But Sure Result – Success

When you survive every day, and you keep moving forward, the second stage slowly comes creeping into your life. It is called success itself.

This phase will delude you, more than any other stage in life. After, what seems like a lifetime of struggle, a little achievement can make you feel as if you have conquered the highest peak on the planet. It is at this stage, that you must keep working as you were while you were merely surviving.

Winston Churchill had said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts”. Success is, in no manner whatsoever, final. It is merely a small victory in the long war yet to be fought.

Whether you are a football fan or not, you have to be living under a rock to not know about what they are calling a ‘fairytale win’ of Leicester City in the Premier League 2016. The odds of Leicester City coming out of Relegation, much less win the league, was 5000-1! From the appointment of Claudio Ranieri to the selection of players, every move was criticized by the media and experts alike.

When Leicester City won its first match against Sunderland, and then West Ham, Crystal Palace, amongst others, it was surely a taste of success for the team. It was something that the team saw for the first time in its 132-year old history! At this point of time, it would have been very easy to step back and relax. They had, after all, beaten 5000-1 odds!

When it was easy to be deluded by a sense of victory, Leicester City only worked harder, and finally won the Premier League. They will go down in history as the men who just wouldn’t give up, not merely in failure, but also in triumphs.

The dictionary will tell you that success is ‘the accomplishment of an aim or purpose’. Yet, it is merely halfway through the journey. Achieving success can be a result of circumstances; maintaining success is a different ball game altogether.

Sustenance – The ‘No-Gravity’ Zone

Remember that science class where you studied about how rockets were launched, with all the complications of velocity and speed? Forget the technical jargon, just remember the process.

The rocket has to fire hot gases backwards with a massive force to push itself forward – this is the struggle period. The rocket rises up and uses most of its fuel in the initial few minutes to fight the gravity of the earth – and that would be success.

Now, when the rocket travels at a speed of at least 25,000 mph, it achieves escape velocity, and is thrown out from the atmosphere of the Earth, into space – the space of no gravity! This is when the rocket moves without any force. That, my dear, is how achieving sustenance feels like. It is when no amount of ‘gravity’ can pull you down.

But traveling at a speed of 25,000 mph consistently, to achieve escape velocity, is no child’s play. This phase requires you to keep putting in your best, and better the next day. It is easiest to fall into the trap of complacency during this time. Nokia refused to sustain its success, and we all know how that ended.

The True Success – Significance

John Maxwell has said, “Success is when I add value to myself. Significance is when I add value to others”. They say that you are truly successful when your work remains in the world long after you are gone. Making money is not that great a task, creating a difference is what true success is.

This is the phase when giving back to the community becomes more important than achieving a certain goal. However, you can only give back when you have sufficient for yourself.

These stages proceed in the same order – struggle, success, sustenance and significance. Ultimately, it begins with one step, and that’s a decision. As Abraham Lincoln said, “Always remember that your decision to be a success is more important than anything else”.