5 CEOs from around the world reveal what ‘success’ means to them

Yoav Vilner
Jack Ma
David A. Grogan | CNBC

There is no one definition of success. What feels freeing to one person can feel suffocating to another. Some value the ability to do meaningful work while others focus on more concrete results.

What's clear is that, in this global market, understanding what success means to different people in different cultures is key.

To gain a cross-cultural understanding of how leaders define success in their work life and personal life, we asked five different CEOs in five different countries about their companies and how they personally define success in life and in work.

Here are their insights.

Pini Yakuel, CEO of Optimove

"There are four components to success:

  1. Self-exploration
  2. Finding your super-power
  3. Releasing new versions of yourself
  4. Outgrowing your genetics

"Self-exploration comes first, because only when we know ourselves on a deeper level can we reach step two, which is finding your super-power. After you find what you are good at, you can constantly make new versions of yourself, perfecting your craft until it is totally authentic and totally you.

"Only after these three steps are fully realized can you outgrow your genetics: The beauty of mankind is that we can defy our genetic bounds and evolve into something different. Using that intangible notion of motivation, desire and a never-give-up kind of attitude, we can raise ourselves by our bootstraps and reach new heights."

Pini Yakuel, the CEO of Israel-based Optimove, which provides predictive analytics to help businesses market their products

Ruzbeh Bacha, CEO of CityFALCON

"Success in both my personal and work life has involved pushing myself out of my comfort zone, living life on my own terms, having a real impact and ultimately changing lives as a result of the desire for success.

"Being open-minded and having lived in an emerging and developing world, my views of success have changed significantly, especially compared to what I thought it was when I still lived in India."

—Ruzbeh Bacha, India, CEO of CityFALCON, which provides personalized financial news feeds

Tom Dwyer, CEO of Aereus Technologies

"Indicators of success for me have changed over the years. When I started my first company, the first time we completed a large financial raise thanks to winning a big contract, I thought there was no way we could fail. At that point, I thought I earned an undeniable level of success. Needless to say, I was wrong.

"We had to go back to the fund several times and missed dates and objectives. We lost contracts that we thought we couldn't lose. We thought we were successful because others thought we were successful.

"It made me realize success in business is about being aware that your job is never finished; sales cycles never end."

—Jon Dwyer, Canada, CEO of Aereus Technologies, which is a manufacturer of antimicrobial copper alloy coatings, mainly for the hospital industry

Tom Willmot, CEO of Human Made

"[Personal and professional success] are tightly coupled. As a founder/CEO I think that's inevitable. Above all, I want to do meaningful work, and my personal measure of success comes from the (often hard) work I get to do that results in things of real meaning."

—Tom Willmot, England, CEO of Human Made, an open-source web agency

Francesca Vidali, CEO of UGO

"For me, success at work means building a well organized, well-oiled machine of a company, both on an operative and a human level. Our company needs customers, suppliers, workers, and for all these units to trust one another. Success means learning to listen to every idea from your team members and turning them into tangible improvements that impact the business as a whole.

"Money is the outcome of this strategy but definitely not the aim."

—Francesca Vidali, Italy, CEO of UGO, which provides on-demand personal assistants

Yoav Vilner is the CEO of Ranky, which helps worldwide start-ups with their growth and marketing. Follow him on Twitter.

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