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Want To Be Successful And Fulfilled? Follow This Hierarchy to Success Many entrepreneurs achieve financial freedom and then feel hollow — this hierarchy can help change that.

By Clate Mask

Key Takeaways

  • This hierarchy is essential to know and align yourself to as you grow your business and aim for your ultimate expression of success.
  • Money is the foundation of the hierarchy — and for good reason.
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Through decades of working with entrepreneurs — and being one myself — I've learned success is based on a hierarchy of the goals we're trying to reach in business and life. Much like Maslow's hierarchy of needs, this model shows money alone doesn't equal success. But know this: reaching the top doesn't mean you've found complete satisfaction in life and business forever — it's not the ultimate means to business joy.

Here's a look at how the hierarchy of success is structured and how you can orient yourself to it in your own business.

The hierarchy of success

Money is the foundation of the hierarchy, and for good reason. There's no shame in wanting the financial gains of owning your own company. In fact, the limitless earning potential that comes with entrepreneurship is a serious motivator that can get you through the sacrifice and hard work required to see it through. Be proud of creating a product or service that people pay money for, and make no apologies for it.

At the same time, it's important to recognize that money alone doesn't make you successful. As business owners make more and more money, they often long for more time to enjoy it. So, the next level of the hierarchy is time. After a few years in business, most entrepreneurs know time is their most precious resource. As the company grows and the money is flowing more freely, many start to "buy back" their time by delivering on their strengths and delegating the rest.

After money and time comes control, then impact and, finally, freedom. In short, ascending the hierarchy of success offers entrepreneurs a chance to live life according to their ambitions and dreams and make a great impact as they serve others. But how do you avoid stalling too long on a single level? Read on for some guidance.

Related: 4 Strategies to Increase Your Success

Get past your sticking point

All too often, entrepreneurs get stuck at certain levels of the hierarchy. In the beginning, it's all about survival and money. This is the biggest quicksand trap for owners because they need enough money to keep the lights on.

But when you're finally making enough money to buy back your time, will you actually do it? Some entrepreneurs get caught up in the money part. They don't want to give any away, even if it's to hire more people and free up their time because they're enamored with the level of success they're achieving. So they stay stuck.

If they happen to move upward and invest in resources that will give them more time, they might get mired in the control layer. You have the time, but are you really in control of the things you do? Are you making the best, most joyful use of your available hours?

The most effective way out of these sticking points is to become dissatisfied. Only when you feel the pain of the status quo will you find the motivation to move onward and upward. For example, maybe you've bought back your time, but you're still getting pulled into areas of the business others should now be handling. You're frustrated and resentful, both of which are great indicators that it's time to truly let go and take control over how you're spending your time. You'll likely stay in that place until you feel those unpleasant emotions for far too long.

Check yourself consistently

To ensure you're orienting yourself to the hierarchy of success, you have to be fluent in it. In other words, you must have the presence of mind and self-awareness to assess which level you're currently in and what's holding you back from moving forward.

To do so, ask yourself the following questions consistently:

  • Where am I on the levels of success?
  • Is being on that level working for me right now? For my relationships?
  • Is it working for my team members? For my customers and partners?
  • How much joy am I feeling?

By checking in on these factors often, you can discover where you are, whether you're stuck and how to make progress.

Related: 4 Launch Strategies for Startup Success and Longevity

Past the pinnacle

One thing I've also realized with the hierarchy of success is that reaching the top doesn't mean you've found complete satisfaction in life and business forever. Many entrepreneurs get to the freedom level and feel hollow. They sell their business and think they have real freedom, but they don't have the same impact they had before. They also don't have the control they used to have because, although they have all the time in the world, they're not doing what they love — running the business.

You have to decide what your ultimate goal is. If what you love is the day-to-day of operating the business, then you might never want to sell. Or, you might start a different company and begin the hierarchy over again. Or, you could be a different kind of person who is thrilled with your money and time, and delivers impact another way (e.g. volunteering or charity work).

Clate Mask

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor


Clate Mask is the founder and CEO of Keap, a maker of sales and marketing automation software for small businesses. He also is co-author of "Conquer the Chaos: How to Grow a Successful Small Business Without Going Crazy."

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