Saturday, June 28, 2008

How Do You Define Success?

A headline in this morning’s NY Times caught my eye: “Why Some Succeed Wildly.”

The article is about the book Outliers: Why Some People Succeed and Some Don’t by Malcom Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point and Blink. In an excerpted paragraph quoted in, he says, “I want to convince you that the way we think about success is all wrong.”

Instead of looking at only the people themselves, he suggests, we need to consider their backgrounds and circumstances, as well as the contexts from which they emerged. As suggested the by NYT article’s author, Gladwell hints that it’s not so much the people who create success, as it is the necessity of the idea itself. If the timing is right, the wildly successful maverick is merely the most adept opportunist, able to take the ripe idea to its fullest potential.

As the book isn’t due out until November, the details of what Mr. Gladwell suggests will have to wait until later. But for now, the premise of the book and its title alone are enough to generate questions and thoughts from me about success.

Why do some of us reach for success and others find contentment where they are? What is it that makes some of us so damned dissatisfied with what we have and what we’re doing? Why is it that some of us always want more?

How do we know when we get THERE? Where exactly is success located? How is it that no matter where you set the bar for your own success—when you get there, or even come close to getting there, it always seems to move?

What exactly is success? How do I define my own success? What do I need to say I’m successful?

With just more than one year of self-employment to my credit, I still own my home. With no second income, no partner or husband or pick up the slack from my lost salary and no public assistance, I’m still afloat. I pay my bills on-time (at least as on-time as I ever did) and put healthy food on the table for me and my daughter.

I help small business owners reach more customers, convert more sales and lay the foundation on which they’ll grow and build their businesses. I earn money for my talents, skills and experience—and my ability to connect those with people who need them. My own belief in my value enables me to create mutually rewarding relationships and transactions.

I have friends who love me and help me. When I need a shoulder to cry on, when I’m scared, confused or not sure what to do next, I have a number of amazing women and men who are there to lift me and bolster me with their care and support. Whether they take me to lunch and listen to me vent, come help me work, or show up with wine and chocolates to just laugh together, they are the roaring, cheering fans who energize and excite me to push ahead.

I have a life that I share with my child. I am able to be both physically and emotionally present with her, creating and enjoying shared experiences—even the mundane ones such as making dinner together. I am also exposing her to the lessons of incremental success. When I reach my monetary goals and I’m taking her on trips around the world, she will know how it happened.

My daughter is not growing up with a mom who says “I wish I had done…” or "If only..." I’m teaching her that if you want something, you have to work hard and focus to get it. She watched me first try and fail to buy the business I wanted, then hang out my shingle as a copywriter, then work for my first clients, then form an S-corp and open an online store, then figure out how to juggle all of those endeavors. And she saw me do it all while still being there to pick her up at school on time (more or less). She knows that even as important as my own dreams and goals are to me, she is the most important part of my life. While together we may set a course for bigger, better things, the unit of “she & me” is the orbit around which those dreams revolve.

My skills are improving. I learn every day.

I am getting better at trusting myself. I am getting better at trusting other people, and knowing how to protect myself.

I have dreams to which I aspire and in which I believe.

No, I cannot afford a new car; I can barely afford the one I have. No, I cannot afford to landscape my yard or hire a full-time assistant. I cannot afford to begin my travels yet.

But that is not how I define success.

By my definition, I am already wildly successful.

How about you?

No comments: