What Does Success Look Like?

One Sunday morning, I was inspired by Chinie’s blog post on The Four-Burner Stove. As I read, I asked myself, “What does success actually look like?” Accordingto the Four-Burner Stove theory, every person has a metaphorical four-burner stove on which they place: Family, Friends, Work and Health. In order to be successful, we must cut off one burner, and in order to be truly successful, we must cut off two burners.

To be honest, I did not dismiss the theory outright. After all, success is important to me. When one lives in a country like Nigeria, particularly in the Federal Capital, success for many people means just being able to pay rent and school fees. It’s a somewhat grim reality, but there it is.

I studied the Four-Burner Stove and imagined my own, replacing Chinie’s drawings with my face and faces of my loved ones.

Which burner to cut?



In recent times, I have struggled with poor health. Fortunately, I am back on track, after making some small but significant life changes. I cannot imagine regressing to daily headaches, bloating, swollen feet and just generally being in a constant state of inflammation. There is no way I am sacrificing my physical, mental and emotional health for anything or anyone.


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I often joke that I work to pay rent. However, my relationship with work is much more fulfilling than providing a roof over my head. I am fortunate that I am able to do work I enjoy. I have always been a writer, in one form or the other – in the media, in press relations, and in development. It’s harder work than I ever imagined and right now, I’m not as rich and famous as I thought I would be when I was sixteen, but it is a lot of fun and I am grateful for it. It is not work I would willingly give up. I have always imagined writing in my large kitchen with my large brood of children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces and pets trooping in and out.



I have a solid set of friends. These women and men have played important roles in my life – Offering support, encouragement, beer and advice. Our friends (and frenemies) help us to flex our emotional muscles. We explore our identities via our relationships with our friends. Whether we’ve had the same ones from Primary 1 (I do!) or we reinvent ourselves and the type of people we roll with every year, friends are important. There’s a German proverb that says one may live without a brother, but cannot live without a friend. I must agree.



My friends and family know how attached I am to my nephew. Family is everything and that includes friends who have become family. We don’t choose our biological family but we can choose how to have the best, most fulfilling relationships with them, no matter how much we differ in beliefs and value systems. Sometimes, that ideal relationship is from a great distance, with minimal exposure. My family is expanding. The investment of love, attention, discipline and care is important to me. How then, do I cut off family in order to succeed?

I decided that success needs a new definition.

How do we define success?

  • Money
  • A lot of admirers.
  • Flashy cars.
  • Large houses.
  • #Winning.

Nothing wrong with all of the above. In fact, they are all highly desirable. I wouldn’t, however, choose to sacrifice one or two “burners” on my stove to achieve those desirables. My new definition of success has to be “balance.”

Achieving balance or equilibrium isn’t easy but it seems, to me, to be the better measure of success, than anything else. Good health, receiving and giving love and support, and doing the work we love (or loving the work we do) – That looks like success to me.

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