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A College in Virginia Wants Merriam-Webster to Change Their Definition of 'Success'

Strayer University thinks that the official definition of "success" is outdated and is taking strides to change it.

Photo via Got Credit

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"Success is what you make it / Take it how it come,
A half a mil in twenties like a billion where I'm from."

This lyric—taken from "So Appalled" off of Kanye West's seminal My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy album—finds rapper Pusha T musing on the subjectivity of what really defines success. For him, it might be "half a mil in twenties," but his insistence that "success is what you make it" stresses the idea that it's extremely relative.


However, according to the Merriam-Webster definition, success is not so relative, describing it as "the fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect, or fame."

Turns out that Merriam-Webster's definition has been a primary topic of concern at the Herndon, Virginia-based Strayer University, where a 2014 study from its national "Success Project Survey" revealed that more than 90 percent of Americans believe that success is more about happiness than "money, power, and fame."

According to Brian W. Jones, president of Strayer University, "Today's official definition of success doesn't reflect the reality of how Americans think about, discuss, and ultimately pursue success." To highlight the detrimental aspect of this definition, he said, "This is a dangerous notion because it can lead people to believe they are unsuccessful because they haven't amassed a certain amount of wealth and success."

Now, Strayer University has instituted the next step by launching a new initiative called "Readdress Success" in an effort to officially get Merriam-Webster to change their outdated definition. Through the initiative's website, you can sign their petition, and, as an added incentive, Strayer University has agreed to donate $0.50 per signature to Dress for Success—a nonprofit organization that provides professional attire to disadvantaged women.

A press release for the initiative given to BusinessWire states that Strayer University has the "support of business executives, social influencers, athletes, and journalists," and that they will "also be releasing exclusive content over the next few months to inspire national and potentially global conversations about success through guest written articles and inspirational online videos featuring well-known influencers."

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