I came across an interesting article earlier about success, being successful, and how successful people are successful. It poses an interesting point: that successful people gain success by building on minor successes, rather than the slightly naive notion that you can be unsuccessful, struggling for many years for that big break, and suddenly achieve success overnight. This extract from the article sums it up pretty nicely:
Many people think it makes sense to sacrifice everything for some elusive success that's waiting a few years down the line when their startup makes it big. They'll sacrifice their health, their social life, their appearance, their savings, their house, they'll quit their jobs, break up relationships that couldn't stand the pressure cooker, stop learning new things because "now is the time to get things done", and "there'll be time to have fun later, after the startup is out of the way"
Thinking about success sensibly, it's much wiser to aim for 'compound' success; with each decision in our lives building upon what we already have, moving from lesser successes to greater successes. If we can try to maximise our personal growth with each decision that we make (be it by gaining new knowledge or skills, financial wealth, connections, experience, and so on), it's difficult to see how we could come out worse off.
That's not to say that we should be completely selfish, completely concerned with our own personal gain (in fact, many decisions can be beneficial for all involved), but it's useful to remember that self-sacrifice is often beneficial to someone else's success at the expense of being detrimental to our own. Besides, surely it's easier to help people when already in a position of success?