Who gets to define success?

I saw a comment on Twitter the other day that really bothered me. The comment went like this:
beware (and be wary) of self-promoting experts on running startups, that can only boast of minor successes...
Now, there's nothing wrong with what I think the intent of this advice is. It does make sense that we pay attention to who we're listening to and understand what they've done.

The problem with the comment though is that it suggests self promotion should come only after a certain level of "success" is achieved; and it presumes that we all have the same definition of "success". I believe neither of these to be true.

"Self-Promotion" is, at least in part, telling people what you have done, sharing with people how you got to where you are, and stating your opinions on how certain things should work. In many ways, this blog is "self-promotional." Why should there be any threshold that I have to reach in order to share my ideas with the world? And, who gets to decide what this threshold is anyway? Is it not true that in today's world, the best form of marketing is to tell a genuine story about your idea and hope that it spreads? (See Seth Godin)

Would it make any sense for someone to say: "Be wary of a new company trying to market what they sell?" Of course not.

The other problem with the comment, and I think the far more troublesome one, is that it assumes everyone's definition of success is the same. It also assumes success is some final end state that we reach, as opposed to an experience happening within a specific moment in time.

Again, I disagree.

If someone starts a website that becomes extraordinarily popular but they lose their best friend and original founding partner in the process, is that still considered a success? Not if you value true friendship over money it isn't.

If an entrepreneur runs a hugely profitable business but loses the love of their life because they were always at work, is their business still a success? Should I take their advice because their business was "successful" even if it might wreck my family?

If someone has a business for five years but they end up having to shut it down, does that make it a failure? What if it gave them 4 months every year to travel around the world? What if it gave them freedom from a 9-5 job? What if it allowed them to be with their children every summer from the ages of 12 to 17? Was their business still a "failure"? I don't think so.

If a "failed" start-up inspires a "successful" start-up in the process of self-promoting, should we still be wary?

Now, I'm sure the reason I took this comment the way I did is because I maintain a blog (self-promotion) and by most measuring sticks I think any "success" I've had would be considered "minor". I'm just a guy with a small business, one employee and a few clients. Sure, I want to get bigger and have more clients and make more money. But the notion that there is some threshold I should have to reach before promoting my business is kind of infuriating.

The thing is, no-one gets to decide what success for you is except for you. No one else gets to decide when it's time to put your ideas out into the world. You do.

If people find them worth while and valuable, they'll keep listening. That is the only validation anyone needs.