How Do You Define Success?

By Julio Briones

There are no limits to the success one can achieve—the only real limits are in how WE define OUR success and whether or not we allow others to define it for us.

How do you define success? Is being successful having the right car? Living in the right neighborhood? Being with the right partner? Or is it having peace of mind and being happy? We all have our own definition of what it means to be successful and our own notions of who is likely to achieve it.

I am a 41-year-old Latino male who served just over 10 years in prison, and I have not completed college. Many would consider this to be the recipe for a person who is not doing well in life or, at best, struggling severely. But this is not the case, and I will tell you where I am once I have shared my journey.

The Journey

I am not going to paint the picture of an abusive, hard-luck life when I was a kid. My childhood was far from perfect, but it was one that gave me strong core values. My journey really began when I was 17 and graduated from high school. My family couldn’t afford to send both my sister and me to college, so I enlisted in the U.S. Army in the hopes of finding a future for myself. While enlisted, I was sent on a tour in Kuwait, where I received an injury that ultimately led to my discharge.

I came back home at 22 and felt lost, had no real direction, and this led me to make some seriously poor choices in friends and generally about my life. One bad decision led to another, and eventually it all snowballed into a monumental crisis that left me sitting in a jail cell. I had been arrested and ultimately charged with robbery and other related offenses; I wasn’t expected to see daylight again until well after I was eligible to collect Social Security.

Being incarcerated was a dark time for my family and me. We struggled through a lot as a result of not knowing what to expect, and not understanding the fact that going to prison is not as simple as showing up. As time went on I was able to, at first, observe and then begin to help others through this process. I eventually became a paralegal and won an appeal that gave me the opportunity to come back into society and be with my family once again.

Upon my release, I was able to find a job, starting at the lowest position offered by the company, eventually working my way up the corporate ladder into a junior executive position in the franchising arm of a national home care provider serving as a national training developer.

That is a nice comeback story in and of itself, but my real education in the prison system actually began my first night. I knew that living in that box wasn’t what I wanted for myself… that I was worth more. I began to reflect on my own choices and behaviors, ultimately beginning the sometimes-painful process of self-awareness and change. I had friends and family send me books and study materials so I could learn how to identify things about myself that desperately needed to change if I ever wanted a life that was different than what I knew until that moment. I spent the next few years identifying these deficiencies within myself and developing techniques I could use to enact change.

As time went on, I used these tools to help others achieve change from within and help their families better understand what was coming. Upon my release from prison, I volunteered and coached others in drug rehab centers to further hone my craft. I learned more about the correlation between different crises such as arrest, addiction and divorce and found that many times these crises happen together and can also bring with them additional collateral damage such as housing issues, senior care and employment difficulties. This further fueled my desire to learn more so I could help others, and I went on to develop my personal crisis management services to work in conjunction with my coaching services to provide a complete package to those in need.

The Definition of Success

How do I define success? I define my success daily. I wake up and see my beautiful wife and children, help my clients, and know that my work is more than a job—it is a calling. Evidence of my success is present with every client that calls me feeling lost—and I can help them and their family through their own process, ultimately finding a way to define their own success. I would say the most important lesson I have learned from my experience and from my journey as a coach and personal crisis manager has been that there are no limits to the success one can achieve—the only real limits are in how WE define OUR success and whether or not we allow others to define it for us.

Julio Briones is a personal crisis manager,coach and expert who has seen crises evolve in numerous ways over the years. With over a decade of coaching, speaking and, most importantly,real-life, in-the-trenches experiences with personal crisis, his outlook is radically different. Julio appreciates—and shares with listeners—that success and change is a moment-to-moment choice that is not about title, race or social status. Success is for everyone, every day. It›s about howwe define our life. Connect with Julio and Answer Man Specialty Services at

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