Three years ago, I wrote a blog post titled Who Defines Your Success?. At that time, someone I knew, who I’d run into at a store, was trying to define how I should consider my success, when he knew nothing about me and how well I was doing at the time.

It’s sometimes interesting to see how people define success for others. About a month ago, I was depressed by, and wrote about, the passing of Michael Jackson, my favorite music performer of all time. In all the television shows that talked about him after the passing, most of them talked about the “failure” of his last album, Invincible, and how it derailed his career.

Let’s talk about Invincible for a quick minute. It came out the last week of October in 2001 and debuted at number one. As a matter of fact, it debuted at number one in 12 countries. The album spawned 3 songs that made it into the top 20, even if none of them went to number one. And it sold more than 10 million copies worldwide, becoming the biggest selling album of the year.

Yet, critics called it a flop, based on Michael Jackson’s standards. I mean, Thriller sold more than 50 million records, and Bad had sold more than 30 million, with HIStory coming in at 20 million.

So, he was being measured against his own success, rather than the success of other artists. In a way, it’s inherently unfair; how do you compare every single album that he puts out to Thriller? It’s like comparing everything Willie Mays did in the rest of his baseball career to that one catch in center field in 1954. It’s like comparing everything Muhammad Ali did to the punch that knocked out Sonny Liston. It’s like comparing,… well, you get the picture.

Michael Jackson spent the rest of his life trying to match the success of Thriller because he knew people expected it of him. How many of us spend our days trying to attain a certain level of success because someone else expects it of us? How fair is it when some of those people hold us in such a high regard that even if we succeed, it might be perceived as failure by them because they expect so much more?

The best any of us can do with our lives is to strive to be the best we can be. We all get to define our own success, set our own goals, and try our best to get there. And if we don’t, we should have no one to answer to but ourselves. As long as you never give up, and keep hope alive, you’re successful. Try thinking about it that way, and your life may feel much more easy to be in control of.