What Defines Success?

Success is that all encompassing, top of the mountain, finish line word that tends to define us and our efforts. It can bring us unsurmountable joy, and ego shattering defeat – and sometimes at the same time. Success is a journey, and how it shows up for you isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach.

About ten years ago, my friend and business coach, Jay Pryor, led me through a discussion about success. They encouraged me to think back to a time in my childhood when I felt successful. Was it acing a test, scoring a goal, or getting accepted into a group or program? All of these examples show different types of skills, effort and engagement. More than likely, we aren’t successful in all areas, and sometimes our successes aren’t even large enough to get noticed by others. The purpose of this activity was to identify what success felt like to me, and what physical and emotional cues showed up when success was achieved. Was it an adrenaline rush, a sense of personal pride, an “atta girl” by others?

So why is success so important? Should we be seeking success all the time?

My answer to these questions is entirely dependent upon your personal goals, aspirations and how you want to feel when you put your head on your pillow at the end of the day. Success can be having a productive conversation with your teenager. It can look like having those around you achieve their goals, and being their strongest supporter. It could come in the form of a simple “thank you.”

I want to do a simple activity with you. Write down a few things that fit under each category below. I’ll give you some questions to get you started.

Once Was (what did your life look like 10 years ago):

  • What was your job / occupation at this time?
  • What did your home life look like?
  • How were you spending your time?
  • How did you feel physically and mentally?
  • What role did money play in your life?
  • What did success look like to you?

Is Now:

  • What is your job / occupation?
  • What does your home life look like?
  • How do you spend your time?
  • What does your physical and mental health look like?
  • What role does money play in your life?
  • What does success look like to you now?

Can Be (what will life look like for you in 10 years?):

  • What job / occupation do you want?
  • What would you like your home life to look like?
  • How would you like to spend your time?
  • How do you want your physical being and mental health to look?
  • How much money do you need to accomplish your goals?
  • What defines success?

By writing down these reflections, I think you will be surprised at how much you have accomplished. Ten years is a long enough time to see growth in yourself, and plan for growth in the future. Notice I said “growth” and not success? The goal here is to get you into a growth mindset, and the success will come naturally.

Do Business Owners Have All the Fun?

I recently made a big career change and am now self-employed.  My decision to embark on this career move was made with a desire to be completely in charge of my earning potential, schedule, and ability to manage my own goals and expectations.  If you are not self-employed, you may look at these objectives with a twinge of jealousy, and be asking yourself “gee, I wish I could make my own schedule, goals and salary.”  If I had that genie in a bottle mentality, and could merely wish my success into existence, the self-employed lifestyle looks pretty sweet!

Here’s the reality of working for yourself:

1. Your time is your biggest commodity – Every activity has a purpose.  Every meeting (whether it be a coffee, lunch or whatever) needs to be focused around producing results.  The small amounts of creative brainstorming that I used to work into my week exists mostly outside of the work day, or is earmarked through quick conversations to be delved into later.  I use my early mornings or quiet time before bed to get my thoughts together for the work day.

2. You (and only you) are in charge of your income – I am fortunate in my new career to be a part of a small team.  But at the end of the day, my contribution to that team solidifies my place on the bench.  Results need to be quantifiable, and accountable.  I don’t get the luxury of waiting until the progress report at the end of a quarter to determine if I need to make adjustments in my strategy.

3. There is no safety net, unless you create it yourself – Being self-employed is a high-risk, high-reward industry.  There isn’t a pile of money sitting in my bank account just waiting for me to indulge in a spa day (although that sounds like a pretty good goal to set).  Planning is key, and creating a full pipeline of activity builds that safety net a bit faster.

4. I don’t work 40 hour work weeks – Here’s a reality check: self employed individuals work way more than 40 hours per week.  A flexible schedule comes with the perks of being able to attend your child’s school program in the middle of the day, but results in cranking up the computer at night to make up for that time away from work.  Being in charge of your outcome has a direct correlation to the time you invest to get there.

Being self-employed is exhilarating, rewarding, challenging, engaging, and motivating.  It is by far the hardest I have ever worked in my life, and I am loving every minute of it.  It also comes with its share of stress, doubt, and competition.  I didn’t make the decision to become self-employed quickly, and it took a lot of planning and soul searching to jump in with both feet.

All About the Numbers

Have you ever noticed that we measure things in numbers?  We determine our success by the value of our paychecks, we count to 10 when trying to calm down, and we seek out the “9 most important things” to do ….

Milestones are important to work towards and achieve.  Numbers have a way of providing a starting point and a level of achievement.  For those of us who like to track things, like how many push ups you can do in one minute, the number counts big time.  If numbers didn’t exist, how would you track your success?

In a recent article titled “10 Simple Things to Make You Happier at Home” on www.apartmenttherapy.com (see, there we go with the numbers again!) the advice given in this article had nothing to do with numbers.  It spoke more on the importance of creating a warm, comforting environment that makes you take a deep breath and just feel good for one minute or forever.  Creating an environment where you feel at peace, makes the numbers fade away.  Our accomplishments can be measured in memories and feelings, it just takes a bit of refocusing.  So, take a look around your space today, whether it be at home or work, and see where you can move away from the number counting and into a progressive, comforting and stimulating setting.

Kick It

Track stars put together a strategy that gives them a competitive pace throughout most of the race.  The best athletes save just a little bit more to “kick it” right at the end for the win.  They push themselves almost to their maximum, but know when to summon up that extra bit of juice to go all the way.

This past week has been an incredible burst of energy for not only me, but for friends and family as well.  I was grateful to share in the joys of many a win: through baseball champions, longest bike ride ever, and even a high bowling score from a non-bowler.  These may be all sports related, but they all proved something to the people who “kicked it” to gain that success.  The baseball champs had created a synergy, positive mental attitude, and remarkable enthusiasm for supporting each other even through the down times.  My friend who rode longest distance on her bike?  She had worked up to this, but surprised herself for her ability to accomplish this feat in a greater way that she even imagined.

Knowing when to go for it, and when to hold back just a little is sometimes a difficult thing to master.  You’ll need to practice your ability to “kick it” and see how your body and your mind react.  Your timing may need some adjustment, or perhaps your mental attitude.  Fine tuning how you can pull forth that little bit extra can provide you with the momentum to exceed your goals.

Make it Happen

Excuses are just words.  Here I’ll give you some: no time, no money, no resources, I can’t, I don’t know how.  Sound familiar?

 Not being what I consider computer tech-savvy, I occasionally come across obstacles that prevent me from accessing and producing things and ideas online or through the computer. This experience is not only frustrating, but also creates a level of brain power exhaustion that puts me into the excuse trap.  The brick wall goes up.

To get out of this trap, I pull back and start talking.  I share my brick wall experience with others, whether they are in the area of my needed expertise or not.  I am always amazed at what pops up.  People know people who know people.  Brilliant!  The solution may not always be exactly in the form you were wanting, but there exists the help you need.

Loral Langemeier, CEO/Founder of Live Out Loud www.liveoutloud.com , talks about the value of surrounding yourself with like-minded people.  “Seek out people who are developing the same skills as you are or aiming for the same goals. Share ideas and ambitions” says Langemeier.  She goes onto say “(s)uccess is impossible to achieve alone. Behind every major success story is a brilliant team of people.”

Use the power of your connections to make it happen.  No one expects you to do all of the work for every project every time.  You may have skills that are good in a variety of areas, but what skills would you consider yourself an expert? Focus on what you do the best, and reach out to other experts to make your good become best.

Wipe it Clean

Have you ever failed at something?  When you think of that failure, does it sting a little bit, or even a lot?

When I was in college, I had a part-time job as a receptionist.  One day at work, I headed to the back room to do some inventory, and took a phone call from my then boyfriend (now husband) and time got away from me.  One of my colleagues confronted me in a very irritated manner for not being where I was supposed to be (the front desk) for a longer than expected time.  Boy, was I embarrassed!  I had let her and the rest of the staff down by not being attentive to my duties, and caused her to take a break from her work to come and find me.  To this day, the memory of that incident still makes me cringe, even though it was probably quickly forgotten by everyone else.  To me, that small infraction of inattention was a failure.

Winston Churchill tells us “(s)uccess is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” What he is suggesting is that to achieve success, you must fail more times than not.  Isn’t that a scary reality.  I don’t know many people who are enthusiastic about failure, but I admire those who can wipe away those failures and move onto the next challenge.

We aren’t always anxious to relive experiences that cause us discomfort.  In fact, we tend to stay away from experiences that put us in situations that are all too familiar with failure as the end result.  What if each time we failed – big or small – in addition to learning from that failure we were able to wipe clean the memory of the pain of that memory and start fresh.  Would that make our effort to try again more profound?

To move forward you must first wipe it clean.  Wipe away the feeling you experience when you remember a failure, and replace it with something positive, or even nothing at all.  A blank slate is the perfect medium for pure creativity.