Thursday, January 08, 2015

From the CEO’s Desk: A Personal Definition of Success

I wish I believed in revisionist history. Because if I did, I’d say that two years ago I walked away from Corporate America and never looked back. I’d say everything went as it does in fairy tales. I’d say I clicked my heels together and lived happily ever after (I know I’m combining stories here).

But… I don’t believe in revisionist history. And when spinning a yarn I teeter on the verge of oversharing or TMI (too much information). So, here goes: my tale of life after corporate America.

Planning 2015 with my Day Designer


Did you make a break with corporate America in 2014?
Planning 2015 with my Year Designer


Two years ago I left a corporate job for the first time; I jumped without really having a clear idea of where I wanted to land. I thought I knew what I wanted and it turns out I did, I was just afraid of narrowing my focus, of committing to getting good at one thing.

So… I chickened out. I re-entered Corporate America. I had found an opportunity to shape an organization, the ability to contribute to its vision and company values and to craft marketing that reflected its “soul.” Then about ten months ago, early March to be exact, that corporate job ended.

I had mixed feelings about the ending. As I drove down the peninsula to hand over my laptop and my monitor, I thought about success and what success meant to me.

Planning 2015 with my Day Designer


Merriam-Webster defines success as:

  • the fact of getting or achieving wealth, respect, or fame
  • the correct or desired result of an attempt
  • someone or something that is successful : a person or thing that succeeds

As I drove I turned the definition around and around in my head. Two things struck me about this definition: it's judgmental and it depends on what others think.

All of a sudden I wondered why so many of us left success in the hands of other people. Why was what other people think of our attempts and our results so important?

Planning 2015 with my Day Designer


The Moment When Everything Changed

After turning over my equipment, I got back into my car. Relieved to have closed a chapter. Ready for the next thing. Unsure what the next thing would be.

The ignition kicked on and the radio came on. American Authors’ Best Day of My Life filled the car's interior. And that’s when I realized:

Redefining Success

Success is not a destination. It’s not a chaise by the pool with cabana service.

Success is being able to make decisions consistent with your values and not someone else’s.

Success is being able to let your personality shine. Of not being afraid of what anyone thinks if you’re wearing a peter pan collar or a paper doll silhouette.

Success is not having to take a job just because you need the money (a luxury not everyone has).

Success includes heartbreak out of necessity.

Success involves getting up and trying. Failing, getting back up, and trying again.

Success is getting good at endings and moving on.

Success is realizing some passions should remain hobbies; focus is not the same as defeat. Success is not taking business decisions personally.

Success requires courage, letting yourself be vulnerable (hence the heartbreak).

Success requires abandoning the illusion of perfection, moving quickly, trusting your gut, and choosing your confidants carefully.

Success requires being comfortable with the gap between your aspirations and your early work (Repeat Ira Glass’s advice to beginners again and again every time you’re tempted to chicken out or give up.).

Success is different for everyone. Education doesn’t grant keys to it. Working hard doesn’t either. Success builds on our strengths (seriously take the time to discover yours). Focusing on improving our weaknesses ensures we’ll never see it. Success demands we learn how to hire others with the strengths we don’t have.

Success requires a vision.

Success doesn’t need a roadmap to it. You only need to be willing to look up, chart a new route, and continue moving towards your vision. (Add Neil Gaiman’s commencement speech to your motivational play list and repeat as often as necessary.)

Success rarely comes to those who standstill or sit.

That moment was when things changed. (Because I’m being completely honest here, I didn’t actually realize all of the above with just one play of the song. I actually pulled my car out of the office parking lot, drove down the street, and parked at a shopping mall. I then listened to that song again and again and again until I truly believed I was having the Best Day of My Life.)

Everyone has turning point. A moment they refer to when people ask, “How did you know you were on the right path?”

This was my moment.

What was your moment?
Did you recognize it at the time?

What path am I on you ask? You’ll have to wait for the next From the CEO's Desk installment.

Planning 2015 with my Day Designer


From the CEO's Desk: A New Column

From the CEO’s Desk is a new monthly series that I’m launching on The Road to The Good Life, my tale of life after corporate America. I’ve learned a lot and been inspired by many female entrepreneurs: Holly Becker of Decor8, Kathleen Shannon and Tara Street of Braid Creative, Hilary Rushford of Dean Street Society, Joy Cho of Oh Joy!, Mindy Marzec of Budget Fairy Tale and Blogging it Forward, Carly Morgan of Ever Clever Mom, and PJ Feinstein of A Girl Named PJ. And, because I’m a big believer in giving back, I’m going to follow their tradition of openly sharing their entrepreneurial path.

From the CEO’s Desk will be a mix of personal anecdotes, best practices I’ve learned, and resources I’ve found helpful.

Why a business column on a lifestyle blog? I’ve tried merging and separating business and lifestyle content multiple times and I haven’t found a way to do it. For me, success is wholeheartedly living, and life doesn’t start when the 9 to 5 ends.

My values and priorities shape my business decisions. My business decisions impact my life and the lives of those in my family. Tradeoffs are always being made.

Not being able to talk about the challenges of choosing to have a family while launching a business sets unachievable expectations.

I’m not doing it all. No successful businessperson does it all at the same time, it’s an illusion. They prioritize and focus their efforts. Or they have a team working with them.

genuinely eden

Credits: All layouts designed by and images taken by Eden Hensley Silverstein for The Road to the Good Life.